A British teacher jailed in Sudan for insulting Islam by allowing her class to name a teddy bear Muhammad has been moved to a secret location for her own safety.
The dramatic move was made after thousands of weapon-wielding protesters gathered outside the presidential palace in Khartoum to demand a harsher sentence.
Mother-of-two Gillian Gibbons was jailed on Thursday for 15 days and escaped a public flogging. The perceived leniency incensed Sudan’s hard-line Muslim clerics – described as “hot heads” by one Sudanese official.
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Massing in central Martyrs Square for an hour, the hordes burned pictures of Mrs Gibbons and chanted: “Shame, shame on the UK,” and “No tolerance: Execution,” and “kill her, kill her by firing squad”.
Riot police kept the mob, who had been ferried in on pick-up trucks after Friday prayers, from the presidential palace.
Mrs Gibbons, who allowed her class of seven year olds to name a teddy bear Muhammad, was moved from the Omdurman women’s prison near Khartoum, said her chief lawyer Kamal al-Gizouli shortly after visiting her to discuss the verdict. He said: “They moved this lady from the prison department to put her in other hands and in other places to cover her and wait until she completes her imprisonment period.”
Several hundred protesters converged at the school where Mrs Gibbons taught, Unity High School. They chanted slogans outside the building, which is closed and under heavy security, then marched toward the nearby British embassy where they were stopped by security forces two blocks from the embassy.
Dr Khalid al-Mubarak, of the Sudanese embassy in London, blamed the demonstrations on “hot heads” from “hard-line” mosques. He said: “There are many mosques and different groups congregating in different mosques. After prayer, people in particular mosques, not the mainstream, were the ones shouting the slogans to this effect.”
Meanwhile, Mrs Gibbons’ son, John Gibbons, 27, from Liverpool, said his mother Gillian was “holding up quite well” as she serves a 15-day prison sentence.
Revealing her first reaction to her jail sentence, he said: “One of the things my mum said … 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.”