British Teacher Arrives Home From Sudan

The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 4, 2007; 2:59 AM

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

Gillian Gibbons' flight arrived at London's Heathrow Airport shortly after 7 a.m. (2 a.m. EST).

"I'm looking forward to seeing my family and friends and to have a good rest," she told reporters. "It has been an ordeal but I was well treated in prison and everyone was very kind to me."

The incident was the latest in a tense relationship between the West and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, an Islamic hard-liner who has been accused by the United Nations of dragging his feet on the deployment of peacekeepers to the country's war-torn Darfur region.

Gibbons, jailed for more than a week, was freed after two Muslim members of Britain's House of Lords met with al-Bashir and the teacher sent the president a statement saying she didn't mean to offend anyone with her class project.

"I have a great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone," Gibbons said in the statement, which was released by al-Bashir's office and read to journalists by British Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.

"I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends, but I am very sorry that I will be unable to return to Sudan," Gibbons wrote.

Al-Bashir insisted Gibbons had a fair trial, in which she was convicted of insulting Islam's Prophet Muhammad, but the president agreed to pardon her during the meeting with the British delegation, said Ghazi Saladdin, a senior presidential adviser.

Gibbons left Sudan Monday night, flying via Dubai to London.

"I am very sorry to leave Sudan. I had a fabulous time," Gibbons said.

"It is a beautiful place and I had a chance to see some of the countryside. The Sudanese people I found to be extremely kind and generous and until this happened I only had a good experience."

Her son John, 25, went to the airport from his home in Liverpool.

"I'd like to thank the government for all they have done, the hard work behind the scenes, especially the two peers who went out there. Everyone's been really great," he said.

© 2007 The Associated Press