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UK lawmakers meet teddy bear teacher

  • Story Highlights
  • Two UK lawmakers meet jailed British teacher, say she is in good spirits
  • Gillian Gibbons found guilty of insulting religion, sentenced to 15 days in jail
  • UK lawmakers say government in Khartoum wants to settle controversial case
  • Teacher arrested after her class named teddy bear "Mohammed"
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KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Two British Muslim lawmakers are reported to have met a British teacher jailed in Sudan for allowing her students to name a teddy bear "Mohammed" and they said she was in good spirits.

The two members of Britain's House of Lords, who arrived in Khartoum Saturday morning, also met Sudanese officials and later said the government in Khartoum wanted to settle the case, according to British media reports.

Lord Ahmed, a Muslim peer in the ruling Labour party, and Baroness Warsi, a Muslim opposition Conservative peer visited Gillian Gibbons in prison for more than an hour.

"Gillian was surprisingly in good spirits considering the last seven days," Warsi told Sky News. Warsi said she and Ahmed met officials Saturday morning and more meetings were scheduled later.

"The Sudanese government do want to resolve this matter. ... (We) hope we can come to an amicable resolution soon," she said.

Later Saturday, the pair was scheduled to meet Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. A lawyer for Gibbons said the president could inform the parliamentarians he had pardoned the teacher.

"I would not be surprised if president of the republic will tell delegation we have dropped this charge," Kamal al-Gizouli told The Associated Press.

Gibbons was sentenced to 15 days in jail Thursday after she was convicted of insulting religion. She was cleared of charges of inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs.

Sources close to the British government and the Republican Palace in Sudan say a deal is expected that will allow Gibbons to be handed over to the British Embassy and then placed on a flight out of Sudan early Monday, Time reporter Sam Dealey told CNN.

A westerner who visited Gibbons Saturday morning said she was "chipper, bearing up and somewhat stunned by events," Dealey said. Video Watch as lawmakers try to free teacher »

The case has sparked outrage both in Sudan and in Britain.

On Friday hundreds of angry protesters, some waving ceremonial swords from trucks equipped with loud speakers, gathered outside the presidential palace to denounce Gibbons -- some calling for her execution.

The demonstrators swore to fight in the name of their prophet.

The palace is on the same street as Unity High School, where Gibbons taught grade school students. Those who named the bear were 7 years old.

A heavy police presence was maintained outside the school, but no demonstrators were there.

Armed with swords and sticks, the protesters shouted: "By soul, by blood, I will fight for the Prophet Mohammed. Western journalists who attempted to talk to the protesters were ushered away by men in plain clothes.

Gibbons is being held in a police precinct jail in northern Khartoum, Sudanese government sources said. Reports that she was being held in a women's prison in the Omdurman district were incorrect.

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Her Saturday visitor described her jail cell as quite good by local standards, with an enclosed bathroom and a bed.

Gibbons has been allowed regular access to consular officials and even spoke to her children by phone on Friday, Dealey said.

British consular officials told CNN that Gibbons would be deported at the end of her prison term.

Leaflets distributed earlier this week by Muslim groups condemned Gibbons as an "infidel" and accused her of "the pollution of children's mentality" by her actions.

Omer Mohammed Ahmed Siddig, the Sudanese ambassador to Britain, was summoned for a second time to meet with the British foreign secretary late Thursday after the court's ruling.

Miliband also spoke to the Sudanese acting foreign minister on the telephone during the meeting, the British Foreign Office said.

"Our priority now is to ensure Ms. Gibbons' welfare and we will continue to provide consular assistance to her," Miliband said in a statement.

Gibbons was arrested Sunday after she asked her class to name the stuffed animal as part of a school project, the Foreign Office said.

She could have received a sentence of 40 lashes, a fine or jail term of up to a year, according to the Foreign Office.

British newspapers condemned Gibbons' conviction, with the Daily Telegraph calling for the recall of the British ambassador from Khartoum and sanctions against the heads of the Sudanese government.

In an editorial, the tabloid newspaper, The Sun, said Gibbons' jailing was a "grotesque insult to Islam" and called Gibbons "an innocent abroad."

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Gibbons has been working at the school, popular with wealthy Sudanese and expatriates, since August, after leaving her position as deputy head teacher at a primary school in Liverpool this summer, Boulos said.

The director of the school, Robert Boulos, said Gibbons asked the children to pick their favorite name for the new class mascot, which she was using for lessons about animals and their habitats. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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