Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to Discuss 15 Day Sentence Given by Courts to a British Teacher

Sudan's president to discuss teddy teacher

Agence France-Presse
From correspondents in Khartoum
December 03, 2007 01:03pm

SUDANESE President Omar al-Beshir is expected to meet two British peers seeking a pardon for a teacher jailed for insulting religion by naming a teddy bear Mohammed.

Lord Nazir Ahmed and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Muslims from Britain's upper house of parliament, have shuttled between cabinet ministers and officials for two days trying to secure an amnesty for Gillian Gibbons, jailed for 15 days.

"The President will receive the British delegation tomorrow at 0730 GMT (6.30pm AEDT today) ,'' Mahjoub Fadl Badri, Mr Beshir's press secretary, said overnight.

He said the meeting would take place at the presidential palace in Khartoum, after the British peers announced they had decided to delay their departure following signs of progress.

"Some progress has been made. As a result of that progress and what we're hoping to achieve, we will not be leaving,'' said Baroness Warsi, having spent the day waiting for a meeting with Mr Beshir.

Sudan's President alone has the power to pardon Ms Gibbons, who was convicted on Thursday over allowing pupils at an exclusive English school in Khartoum, where Islamic Sharia law is enforced, to name a teddy bear Mohammed - the same name as the Muslim prophet but also a very popular boys' name.

Lord Ahmed, who said they had the support of Prime Minister Gordon Brown for their mission, said it was a "very critical time'' and declined to elaborate on the difficulties encountered so far in order not to jeopardise Ms Gibbons's fate.

Thousands of people demonstrated on Friday after the main Muslim prayers in Khartoum, the conservative capital of the former British colony, against what they considered Ms Gibbons's lenient sentence, with some calling for her death.

Being found guilty of insulting religion and inciting hatred in Sudan is punishable by up to six months in prison, 40 lashes and a fine.

Baroness Warsi said earlier that her concerns about the teacher's wellbeing lifted after they met her on Saturday at the secret location where she is being incarcerated.

"She's doing well, she's in good spirits considering the last seven days,'' Baroness Warsi said.

Ms Gibbons herself issued a statement obtained by Britain's Channel 4 News television saying she was being well looked after.

"I'm really sad to leave and if I could go back to work tomorrow then I would,'' said Ms Gibbons, who is due to be deported at the end of her sentence on December 9 if the peers fail to take her home earlier.

Her arrest and jail sentence sparked outrage in Britain and a diplomatic crisis between London and Khartoum, further straining relations already frayed over nearly five years of war in Darfur.

1 comment:

Pan-African News Wire said...

British Teacher Released in Sudan

Sudan's President Pardons British Teacher Jailed After Students Named Teddy Bear Muhammad

The Associated Press

A British teacher jailed after she allowed her students to name a teddy bear Muhammad was released Monday hours after Sudan's president pardoned her, a British Embassy spokesman said.

The teacher, Gillian Gibbons, said she did not intend to offend anyone and had great respect for Islam.

"She is in British Embassy custody and is with the deputy British ambassador," embassy spokesman Omar Daair said. He would not give her exact location or say when she would leave Sudan.

Gibbons was sentenced on Thursday to 15 days in prison and deportation for insulting Islam because she allowed her students to name a class teddy bear Muhammad, seen as a reference to Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

The teacher's conviction under Sudan's Islamic Sharia law shocked Britons and many Muslims worldwide. It also inflamed passions among many Sudanese, some of whom called for her execution.

Gibbons escaped harsher punishment that could have included up to 40 lashes, six months in prison and a fine.

In a written statement released by the presidential palace and read by Warsi to reporters Monday, 54-year-old Gibbons said she was sorry if she caused any "distress."

"I have a great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone," Gibbons said in the statement. "I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends, but I am very sorry that I will be unable to return to Sudan."