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Sudan Sentences British Teacher in Teddy Bear Case to 15 Days in Jail

A court in Sudan has convicted a British teacher of inciting religious hatred by letting her class of seven-year-olds name a teddy bear Muhammad.

A defense lawyer says the court sentenced 54-year-old Gillian Gibbons Thursday to 15 days in prison, followed by deportation from Sudan.

Britain's Foreign Secretary, David Miliband says the incident was clearly an "innocent misunderstanding by a dedicated teacher," and he called in the Sudanese ambassador to explain the court's action.

The Muslim Council of Britain echoed the government's comments and said Sudan's handling of the case could damage Islam's image around the world.

The teacher asked her young students to write an imaginary diary for a teddy bear, as a writing exercise. The children decided to name the bear Muhammad, which is a common man's name in Sudan and other majority-Muslim countries.

Gibbons was arrested earlier this week, and court officials say the five days she has been in jail will be deducted from her 15-day sentence. Her trial took just a few hours Thursday, apparently in an effort to conclude the process before Friday prayers, when protests about the case are expected in the streets of Khartoum.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.