Sudan pardons jailed British teacher

8 December, 2007

The government of Sudan has granted a full pardon to a British teacher who had been jailed for having allowed her students to name a teddy bear Mohammad, the name of Islam’s holiest Prophet.

British media reports said the pardon came after two leading Muslims in the United Kingdom met President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan in an attempt to secure an early release for the teacher, Gillian Gibbons.

Gillian Gibbons had been sentenced on November 29, 2007, to 15 days in prison for “insulting Islam” to be followed by deportation. She had also faced 40 lashes or up to one year in prison.

Lord Ahmed and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the two British peers, had launched a private initiative to secure the teacher’s early release.

Gillian Gibbons was charged with allowing her pupils at the private Unity High School at Khartoum, capital of Sudan, to choose their favorite name for a teddy bear, as part of a project on animals, in September 2007. Out of the 23 students, 20 had chosen the name Mohammad, which is a popular name for boys in Sudan.

The influential Council of Muslim Scholars of Sudan had asked the government not to pardon Gillian Gibbons, arguing that a pardon would damage the Sudanese government’s reputation with Muslims around the world.

Also, hundreds of extremist Muslims had taken to the streets of Khartoum, demanding death for Gillian Gibbons.

British media quoted analysts as saying that Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is facing opposition within his own government – especially from the powerful Ministry of Interior and state security apparatus – for “having seen bending to Western pressure.”

However, many moderate citizens of Sudan, according to reports, were of the opinion that it was an innocent mistake on the part of the teacher, which could be forgiven after an apology.




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