LONDON, England (CNN) — UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Tuesday that officials were working to secure the early release of a British teacher who faces being whipped in Sudan after she allowed her class to name a teddy bear “Mohammed.”
Gillian Gibbons, 54, has been accused of blasphemy and is being held by police in the capital Khartoum, Kirsty Saunders, British Foreign Office spokeswoman told CNN.
Police arrested the school teacher after she asked her class of seven-year-olds to come up with a name for the toy as part of a school project, according to widespread media reports.
Parents of students at the Unity High School in Khartoum informed the authorities and Gibbons was taken into custody Sunday, Saunders told CNN.
So far Gibbons has yet to be charged with any offense, however, under Sudanese law, insulting Islam is punishable with 40 lashes, a jail term of up to six months or a fine, she said.
However, a Sudanese official told CNN that if police decided that Gibbons had acted in good faith, she would most likely be spared punishment.
“If the intentions are good, definitely she will be absolved and will be cautioned not to repeat this thing again,” Mutrif Siddig, Sudan’s under secretary for foreign affairs, said.[…]
According to a report in The Times newspaper, Gibbons had asked the children to pick their favorite name for the new class mascot, which she was using to aid lessons about animals and their habitats.
A member of the Sudanese government told CNN Muslim parents at the school informed the authorities after considering that her actions were offensive to their faith.
Mutrif Siddig, Sudan’s under secretary for foreign affairs, said: “To give the name of Mohammed to this teddy bear, it was considered as insult by some parents. And this school is mixed, it is not all Christian students.”[…]
Separately, CNN contacted a member of staff, who confirmed the school had been shut down temporarily as a result of the incident involving Gibbons. He refused to give his name and said no other members of staff were available.