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Sudanese Demonstrators Call for British Teacher's Execution


Thousands of Sudanese have marched in Khartoum, demanding death for a British teacher convicted of insulting Islam after her students named a teddy bear Muhammad.

Witnesses say the demonstrators - some of whom carried knives and clubs - flowed into the streets from mosques after Friday prayers. Some in the crowd burned photos of the British teacher, Gillian Gibbons.

The 54-year-old teacher was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in prison, to be followed by deportation from Sudan.

The teacher had asked her class of seven-year-olds 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.

British Embassy officials say they were allowed to see Gibbons Friday, and say she is doing well.

They would not say where the teacher is being held. Some reports say Gibbons was moved to a secret location in response to the protests.

Gibbons' son told the Associated Press that he spoke with his mother Friday by phone and she appealed for tolerance. He said Gibbons does not want anyone to have any resentment towards Muslims.

Britain's foreign secretary, David Miliband, says the incident was clearly an "innocent misunderstanding by a dedicated teacher," and he called on 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 U.S. State Department said the punishment given to Gibbons was excessive, and was clearly an overreaction.

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.

The teacher could have faced a maximum sentence of 40 lashes, six months in jail and a fine.

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