Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Hopes rise for teacher's release

Sudan's president will meet British lawmakers advocating a pardon for the teddy-bear naming.

KHARTOUM, Sudan - The president of Sudan will meet a British delegation today to discuss a possible pardon for a teacher imprisoned in Sudan for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Muhammad, a presidential spokesman said yesterday.

Two Muslim members of British parliament, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and Lord Nazir Ahmed, have been in Sudan for two days trying to set up a meeting with President Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir.

He is the only one who can pardon Gillian Gibbons, 54, the British teacher who has been imprisoned since Thursday.

Bashir's morning meeting with the Britons is to take place at the presidential palace, presidential spokesman Mahzoub Faidul said. "He will discuss the case and a possible pardon."

Gibbons was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in prison and deportation for insulting Islam because she allowed her students to give a teddy bear the same name as Islam's revered prophet - a violation under Islamic sharia law as interpreted in Sudan.

Concern for the teacher's safety grew Friday after thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and swords, burned pictures of her and demanded her execution.

Gibbons was moved to a secret location on Friday after the demonstrations.

The British Embassy said it was not officially notified of the parliamentarians' meeting with Bashir. But a spokesman said it would be "a positive development."

Ahmed said "progress has been made" in their meetings. He expressed hope that his and Warsi's Muslim background would help bridge the gap between Britain and Sudan.

"That is very important, we are British and we are Muslim," said Ahmed. "We understand the sensitivity and culture of this part of the world and also our own culture and norms and customs."

Gibbons' chief lawyer, Kamal al-Gizouli, was optimistic that the British delegation would be able to secure the teacher's release, in part because the whole affair has become an international embarrassment to the government.

"They want to get rid of the problem and the visit of the British lords would be a good opportunity," he said.