A British teacher jailed in Sudan for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Mohammad will be released on Monday after receiving a pardon from Sudan's president, a source in a British parliamentary delegation said.
The pardon followed an appeal by two leading British Muslims to the Sudanese president in an attempt to secure an early release for Gillian Gibbons, who was sentenced on Thursday to 15 days in jail for insulting Islam to be followed by deportation.
A Sudanese presidential adviser, asked to confirm that the school teacher had been pardoned, said: Definitely, yes.
Gibbons, in a written statement read by British Baroness Sayeeda Warsi upon news of the impending release, apologized for any discomfort she had caused to the people of Sudan.
I have been in Sudan for only four months but I have enjoyed myself immensely. I have encountered nothing but kindness and generosity from the Sudanese people, Gibbons said.
I have great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone. I am sorry if I caused any distress.
A Sudanese presidential adviser said she was expected to leave Sudan on Monday.
The two British peers, Warsi and Lord Ahmed, had launched a private initiative to secure Gibbons' early release. They delayed their departure after President Omar Hassan al-Bashir confirmed a last-minute meeting, following a two-day wait.
Gibbons provoked a complaint after she let her pupils at Khartoum's private Unity High School pick their favorite name for a teddy bear as part of a project in September. Twenty out of 23 of them chose Mohammad -- a popular boy's name in Sudan, as well as the name of Islam's Prophet.
BRITAIN WELCOMES RELEASE
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose country has had poor relations with Sudan for several years mainly due to the ongoing conflict in Darfur, said he was delighted and relieved to hear that Gibbons would be released shortly.
Common sense has prevailed. She will be released into the care of our embassy in Khartoum after what must have been a difficult ordeal, he said in a statement.
Sudan's influential Council of Muslim Scholars on Sunday had urged the government not to pardon Gibbons, saying it would damage Khartoum's reputation with Muslims around the world.
Hundreds took to the streets of the capital on Friday, many waving swords and Islamic flags, calling for her death.
Retracting this light sentence ... would wound the sensibilities of the Muslims in Sudan, Council Spokesman al-Sheikh Mohammad Abdel Karim told Reuters.
But many ordinary Sudanese said they thought it was an innocent mistake which could be forgiven after an apology.
Britain's ambassador to Sudan, Rosalind Marsden, saw Gibbons on Sunday and said she was in high spirits. Her lawyer said Gibbons was being held in a clean and private environment at an undisclosed secure location.
It is clean, well guarded ... she came to me smiling if a little bit sad, lawyer Kamal al-Jazouli said. She said she was sad because she never imagined her stay in Sudan would end up like this.
She loved her pupils very much and they loved her. She said she would miss them when she goes outside Sudan.
Khartoum has had tense ties with European countries and the United States in recent years over disagreements over how to handle Darfur, where the U.N. Security Council wants to deploy a joint U.N.-African force to help end the conflict and help displaced people return home.
Khartoum reluctantly agreed but is disputing many details. International experts estimate that some 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million been driven from homes in ethnic and political conflict in Darfur since a revolt by mostly non-Arab rebels in 2003.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Heavens in Khartoum and Kate Kelland in London
(Writing by Cynthia Jonston, editing by Myra MacDonald)