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Teddy row teacher leaves Sudan

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  • Briton convicted of insulting religion flies home after being pardoned
  • Gillian Gibbons apologized for any distress her actions may have caused
  • She was jailed for letting students name teddy bear Mohammed
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KHARTOUM, Sudan (CNN) -- A British teacher convicted of insulting religion in Sudan by allowing her students to name a teddy bear "Mohammed" has left Khartoum on a flight home, the British Foreign Office said Monday.

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Gibbons, shown in an undated photo, is expected to speak to the media upon landing in London on Tuesday.

Gillian Gibbons, freed after Sudan President Omar al-Bashir granted her a presidential pardon earlier Monday, earlier apologized for any distress her actions may have caused.

"I have great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone, and I am sorry if I caused any distress," Gibbons said in a statement read by Sayeeda Warsi, one of two Muslim lawmakers who traveled to Sudan to secure her release.

Gibbons, 54, was sentenced to 15 days in jail last Thursday. Without a pardon, she would have remained in jail another six days.

She left Sudan on an Emirates flight to London via Dubai hours after the courts ruled she should be deported after completing her sentence. Video Watch how diplomats worked to defuse the crisis »

The Briton will land early on Tuesday morning at London's Heathrow Airport, where she is expected to make a statement to the media.

Gibbons also praised the "kindness and generosity" of the Sudanese and said she would be sad to leave her job at Unity High School and would miss her students "terribly."

The pardon came following efforts by Nazir Ahmed and Sayeeda Warsi, Muslim members of Britain's House of Lords, to persuade the Sudanese government that releasing Gibbons would create international good will toward their country.

The House of Lords is the UK's upper parliamentary chamber.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown welcomed news of Gibbons' pardon.

"Common sense has prevailed," Brown said.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he had spoken to Gibbons since her release, and found the teacher in "remarkably good spirits" despite her ordeal.

He praised "her steadfastness and good cheer" throughout the process and said she had shown "very good British grit in difficult circumstances."

Gibbons' son John told reporters outside his home in Liverpool that he is relieved his mother was released. However, he said the "family won't be 100 percent thrilled until she's on the plane."

"It's been a strange old week, very strange for the family, and we're pleased it's coming to an end," he added. Video Watch John Gibbons' happy reaction »

The efforts to secure her release were complicated by pressure from Sudanese hard-liners for her to complete her 15-day sentence. Some protesters called for her execution.

"This was an unfortunate, unintentional, innocent misunderstanding," Ahmed said.

Meanwhile it was revealed on Monday that a disgruntled former employee alerted Sudanese officials about the case in an effort to shut down Unity High School.

The members of Parliament met privately with Gibbons on Saturday, who told them she was being treated well, they said. Warsi told Dealey she was doing "remarkably."

Gibbons was cleared of charges of inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs, her lawyer, Ali Ajeb, said.

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On Friday, hundreds of protesters, some waving ceremonial swords from trucks equipped with loudspeakers, gathered outside the presidential palace to denounce Gibbons. Video Watch protesters call for Gibbons' execution »

Some of the protesters voiced anger at the Sudanese government for not treating Gibbons more harshly. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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