`Teddy bear UK teacher jailed for 15 days in Sudan

November 30th, 2007 - 2:06 pm ICT by admin  

London, Nov.30 (ANI): A British teacher, who let her pupils call a teddy bear Mohammed, has escaped a flogging, but has been jailed for 15 days in a notorious Sudan jail.
The Daily Mail said that Gillian Gibbons would be incarcerated at the squalid Omdurman women’s prison in Khartoum, which is massively overcrowded and infested with mosquitoes.
The 54-year-old teacher is said to be “stunned” by the sentence imposed for insulting Islam - after which she will be deported from Sudan.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he was extremely disappointed with the conviction
Miliband called in the Sudanese ambassador Omer Mohamed Ahmed Siddig for the second time to protest over the verdict.
“Our clear view is that this is an innocent misunderstanding by a dedicated teacher. Our priority now is to ensure Mrs. Gibbons’ welfare and well being,” Miliband said.
Last night, her conviction and punishment were furiously condemned and the Foreign Office was criticised for not fighting her case more forcefully.
“The sentence is a mockery of justice and we consider Gillian to be a prisoner of conscience,” said Mike Blakemore, of Amnesty International.
Malcolm Moss, a Tory member of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said: “This is disgraceful. She only named a teddy bear and she is serving 15 days in jail.
“Our government dithered over intervening and this is what happens. We should have been a lot tougher, a lot sooner,” he added.
Louise Ellman, the MP representing the Liverpool constituency from where Gillian hails, said: “I do realise that the sentence could have been harder, but 15 days in a jail in Sudan could be very, very harsh.
The Omdurman Prison where Mrs Gibbon will be locked up was built for 200, but now houses 1,200 women and 300 children, most of the adults jailed for illegally brewing alcohol.
Last night, her son John said the family are struggling to take in the news of her punishment.
“It’s really difficult at the moment, my head is everywhere,” the 25-year-old marketing consultant added.
He said that he is hoping to visit his mother in jail and urged the Foreign Office to help speed up the visa process.
The Muslim Council of Britain called the sentence completely unjustified.
“I’m utterly disappointed with this decision,” said the council’s Ibrahim Mogra.
The verdict came at the end of a day of drama and farce in Khartoum that saw British diplomats initially prevented from entering the court.
British officials said they would be pressing for a reduction in sentence, and the five days Mrs Gibbons has already spent in custody might count against the 15 to be served.
The Sudanese authorities were also said to have started preparing deportation documents for this weekend, leading to speculation she could be freed as early as tomorrow.
Mrs Gibbons, a divorced mother-of-two, was arrested on Sunday and on Wednesday charged with insulting Islam, inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs.
It came after seven-year-old pupils chose to call a teddy bear Mohammed at the Unity High School in Khartoum, where she had worked since August.
During the court case behind closed doors yesterday it was revealed that the school’s office assistant, Sara Khawad, had complained to the education authorities - leading to the teacher’s arrest. (ANI)

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