British Muslim Delegation Pushes for Teacher's Release

KHARTOUM, Sudan -- The British government and a Muslim delegation from the House of Lords are together pushing hard to obtain a pardon from Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for a teacher imprisoned when she allowed her students to name a teddy bear Muhammad.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and Lord Nazir Ahmed of the House of Lords moved into a second day of meetings with officials in hopes of getting the all-important meeting with the president that could free British teacher Gillian Gibbons.

"We are working closely with Lord Ahmed and Baroness Warsi because we think their initiative has the best chance of success," embassy spokesman Omar Daair said Sunday. "We are still pressing very hard for a meeting with the president."

Sudan's Justice Ministry said that only the president had the power to pardon Gibbons, who was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in prison and deportation for insulting Islam because she allowed her students to name a class teddy bear after Islam's most revered figure.

Baroness Warsi told the British Press Association that the meetings continued on Sunday with serious discussions and that she was hopeful for a resolution.

"There's a huge amount of goodwill here, we want to keep building on that, and keep searching for a resolution," she said.

Gibbons' chief lawyer, Kamal al-Gizouli, was optimistic Sunday for the chances of the British delegation to secure the teacher's release, in part because the whole affair has become an international embarrassment to the government.