KHARTOUM, Sudan – British teacher Gillian Gibbons was convicted of insulting Islam for letting her pupils name a teddy bear Muhammad and sentenced to 15 days in prison and deportation from Sudan, one of her defense lawyers said Thursday.
Ali Mohammed Ajab, of Gibbons' defense team, said she was found guilty of "insulting the faith of Muslims in Sudan" under Article 125 of the Sudanese criminal code, a lighter conviction than the original charge of inciting religious hatred. A charge later confirmed by a judge leaving the closed court session.
"I feel this is very serious and very unfair," he told The Associated Press outside the courtroom. Ajab, who also works for the Khartoum Center for Human Rights, said the issue was raised by "hard-liners who are always trying to make some noise," in an apparent reference to religious conservatives.
Ajab said his center would appeal the verdict, an opinion not shared by Gibbons' employer.
"It's a very fair verdict, she could have had six months and lashes and a fine, and she only got 15 days and deportation," said Robert Boulos of the Unity High School, confirming there would be no appeal. He noted that she would only spend 10 days in prison, having already served five.
"We are very sad about her deportation because she was such a good teacher," he said, adding that with the current tension over the case it was probably safer for her to leave the country.
Religious conservatives in Sudan have been outraged by the naming of Gibbons' class teddy bear "Muhammad" in an apparently insulting reference to Islam's most revered prophet and defense lawyers reported receiving death threats.
"I am threatened, that's why I'm carrying a gun in court," defense lawyer Abdel Khalig Abdallah said, opening his suit coat to reveal a revolver during a break in the trial.
The maximum penalty for the original charge, which has attracted world wide attention, was 40 lashes, a fine and six months in prison.
Gibbons is expected to serve out her sentence in the Omdurman women's prison near Khartoum. It was not immediately clear if following the verdict in the closed hearing, she went immediately to prison.