Muslim peer bids to free teacher

A Muslim Labour peer is travelling to Sudan to push for the release of a British teacher imprisoned for insulting religion.

Muslim peer bids to free teacher

Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, was jailed after her class was allowed to name a teddy bear Muhammad.

Lord Ahmed is expecting to meet Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and the chief justice.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says the meeting could provide a way out of the diplomatic crisis.

Private negotiation

Lord Ahmed is travelling to the capital Khartoum on his own initiative, accompanied by a Muslim shadow minister, Lady Warsi.

He has been in private negotiation with Sudanese officials this week, in a separate initiative to the British government's efforts.

Lord Ahmed's office told the BBC: "We have it from the top that Sudanese authorities will co-operate in relation to her release."

Our correspondent said the Muslim delegation is expecting to meet the president on Saturday and return to the UK by Monday, hopefully with Mrs Gibbons.

"Analysts believe it would suit the Sudanese government to be seen to be showing mercy in handing her over to a Muslim delegation, instead of appearing to 'give in' to their former colonial masters, the British government," Mr Gardner said.

'Swift resolution'

Meanwhile Mrs Gibbons' son has said his mother does not want the situation to spark "resentment" towards Muslims.

John Gibbons, 27, from Liverpool, said she was "holding up quite well".

He told The Associated Press on Friday: "One of the things my mum said today was that 'I don't want any resentment towards Muslim people'.

"She doesn't want people using her and her case as something to stoke up resentment towards anyone, towards Sudanese people, towards Muslim people or whatever.

You know, that's not the type of person she is, that's not what she wants."

He added she was in good spirits and did not seem too distressed.

"She's holding up quite well. It was nice obviously to speak to her and hopefully we will be able to speak again," he said. "It's made me feel a hell of a lot better."

Crowds of people marched in Khartoum on Friday to call for a tougher sentence for Mrs Gibbons.

The Foreign Office said Mrs Gibbons had been visited again by consular staff on Friday and that she was "well", but it could not confirm where she was being held.

A spokeswoman said: "We are pursuing diplomatic contacts with the Sudanese government, we are continuing to do so and will throughout the weekend both in London and Khartoum.

"We are continuing to search for a swift resolution of this issue."

'Strongest terms'

Some reports said protesters had called for her to be shot. Her lawyer said she was later moved for her own safety.

Hundreds of riot police were deployed but they did not break up the demonstration.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been in touch with Mrs Gibbons' family for a second time, speaking to a close relative of the teacher.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has expressed "in the strongest terms" the UK's concern at her detention.

He said there were no plans to issue advice to British nationals living and working in Sudan in the light of the trouble, but diplomatic staff were keeping "a close eye" on the situation.

In September, Mrs Gibbons allowed her class of primary school pupils to name the teddy bear Muhammad as part of a study of animals and their habitats.

The court heard that she was arrested on Sunday after another member of staff at Unity High School complained to the Ministry of Education.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 02 Aralık 2007, 09:38