"Teddy bear teacher" returns to England

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The British teacher jailed for letting her students name a teddy bear "Muhammad" as part of a writing project arrived in England after being pardoned - ending a case that set off an international outcry and angered many moderate Muslims.

Gillian Gibbons is back home after serving eight days of a 15-day sentence for allowing her students to name a teddy bear "Muhammad" as part of a writing project. This angered Sudanese authorities who said it was an insult to the Islamic prophet. She was released after being pardoned by Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir.

In Britain, the obviously relieved Gibbons said she was concerned she might have offended people.

"It has been an ordeal but I would like you to know that I was well-treated in prison and everybody was very kind to me. I was very sorry to leave Sudan. I had a fabulous time there. It is a really lovely place, and I managed to see some of the beautiful countryside while I was there," she said. "The Sudanese people I found to be extremely kind and extremely generous, and until this happened to me, I only had a good experience."

Gibbons could have received 40 lashes or a six-month jail sentence. After her sentencing last week, hundreds of Sudanese demonstrated for a stiffer sentence, with some calling for her to be executed.

Gibbons' arrest resulted in an international outcry and a tense stand-off between Sudan and Britain. It was also widely condemned by British Muslims. Her release followed the intervention of two Muslim peers, Lord Ahmed and Baroness Warsi who travelled to Khartoum and met Monday with President Omar al- Bashir.

A senior adviser of president Bush said Mr. Bashir insisted Gibbons had received a fair trial.


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