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Teacher in teddy bear case released

The Briton, jailed in Sudan after she let her students name the toy Muhammad, flies home.

December 04, 2007|From the Associated Press

KHARTOUM, SUDAN — A British teacher jailed for letting her students name a teddy bear Muhammad as part of a writing project headed home Monday after being pardoned -- ending a case that set off an international outcry and angered many moderate Muslims.

The incident was the latest in a tense relationship between the West and Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir, an Islamic hard-liner who has been accused by the United Nations of dragging his feet on the deployment of peacekeepers to the country's war-torn Darfur region.

Gillian Gibbons, jailed for more than a week, was freed after two Muslim members of Britain's House of Lords met with Bashir and the teacher sent the president a statement saying she didn't mean to offend anyone with her class project.

"I have a great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone," Gibbons said in the statement, which was released by Bashir's office and read to journalists by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, one of the two British Parliament members.

Gibbons, 54, flew out of the country Monday evening, landing hours later in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. She was to arrive in London this morning.

"Common sense has prevailed," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in a statement expressing delight over Gibbons' release.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband praised Gibbons, saying that "she's shown very good British grit in very difficult circumstances."

Gibbons, who was arrested Nov. 25, was sentenced to 15 days in prison and deportation for the teddy bear project for her class of 7-year-olds. She could have gotten up to 40 lashes, six months in prison and a fine.

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