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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 December 2007, 10:54 GMT
Sudanese views differ in teddy row
By Amber Henshaw
BBC News, Khartoum

Protesters in Khartoum
Pre-prepared banners called generally for "punishment"

The protests may be over for now in Khartoum but the debate about Gillian Gibbons carries on unabated.

As efforts to get her released by the British foreign office and two Muslim peers continue, opinion is divided and both sides of the argument are trying to make their voices heard.

Clearly the Sudanese Government is coming under huge pressure internally about this case.

Some now want the government to send Mrs Gibbons back to court. They believe the 15-day sentence for insulting religion was too lenient and they would like her to be re-tried.

Pictures burned

As witnessed during Friday's protest, there is a minority who are baying for her blood.

Some chanted threats against the 54-year-old primary school teacher from Liverpool.

A group of men shouted: "She must be killed by the sword."

Newspaper pictures of Mrs Gibbons were burned on a makeshift stage at the heart of Martyrs Square.

But this kind of sentiment seems to be coming from a small group of hotheads.

Public apology

Some analysts believe that the majority of people were pacified because she had got a jail term.

There's also a large chunk of the population that feel deeply upset by what has happened to Mrs Gibbons.

They share the sentiment voiced by the school and Mrs Gibbons herself that this was an innocent, unintentional mistake and that if she apologized publicly that would be enough for them to forgive her.

At court on Thursday before the verdict, one man approached me and asked whether I was the teacher.

Gillian Gibbons
The treatment of Mrs Gibbons has triggered a diplomatic rift

I said no but he continued in broken English that he had just wanted to apologise to Mrs Gibbons for the ordeal that she was being put through.

Diplomats hope that her ordeal will be over in the next couple of days.

Efforts by the British foreign office and the two British Muslim peers who are in Khartoum on a private mission to secure the early release of Mrs Gibbons - are under way.

Sources close to the Sudanese Government believe the peers have more chance of success than official attempts by London.

Orchestrated protests

This whole incident has put an enormous strain on relations between Britain and Sudan and it is likely to have long lasting consequences that will not be easy to resolve.

The Sudanese Government reacted angrily to threats by the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown about possible sanctions over Darfur.

It had already taken great efforts by the British to start turning things round to get relations on a more even footing, but this incident is bound to set them back.

Many believe this case is politically motivated and that Mrs Gibbons is a pawn in a far wider diplomatic wrangle.

There was a strong feeling here that Friday's protest had been carefully orchestrated. The banners waved by marchers and tied to the front of vehicles had all been pre-printed.


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