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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 December 2007, 20:56 GMT
Teddy teacher speaks of jail fear
Gillian Gibbons
Gillian Gibbons felt she had let down her pupils
A UK teacher jailed in Sudan for letting her class name a teddy bear Muhammad has told US TV of her ordeal.

Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, told ABC's Good Morning America of her fear of being held in an empty cell without knowing what would happen next.

"There was just a floor and wall. No bed, no chair, no table, nothing. It's very frightening," she said.

Mrs Gibbons spent eight days in custody for insulting Islam before being pardoned by President Omar al-Bashir.

International attention

Looking refreshed after her ordeal, Mrs Gibbons told the programme when she was first arrested on 25 November she thought she was just going to the police station to make a statement.

"I ended up staying for eight days," she said.

"I started off in a holding cell. It was very grim. In a Sudanese prison you don't get any furniture.

I did break the law, you accept the consequences - the problem was the consequences just snowballed out of control
Gillian Gibbons

"The British consul came to see me every day and they were fantastic. Without them I couldn't have coped.

"They gave me a little bit of information but I had no idea of the international storm I had caused."

She said the whole time she was being held, she never knew she could have been facing six months in prison or 40 lashes for blasphemy.

"Nobody ever told me that when I was in Sudan. They kept that from me. I did not find that out until I actually got home. Then, I was just staggered."

During the interview, she praised the bravery of her pupils' parents who had volunteered to back her in court and thanked her teaching assistant who actually did so.

Gillian Gibbons (centre) with her son John (left) and daughter Jessica (right)
Mrs Gibbons was reunited with her children John and Jessica

On 29 November, she was found guilty by a Sudanese court of insulting Islam and sentenced to 15 days in prison and deportation.

That was cut short, however, following the intervention of two British Muslim peers who pressed Sudanese officials to pardon her.

Of her conviction, she said: "I did break the law. You accept the consequences. The problem was the consequences just snowballed out of control.

"I think that when I actually went to court there was no way back for them - they had to find me guilty."

Reflecting on her experience, she said it had not changed her view of the country or the people.

"The Sudanese people are wonderful, warm and generous people. You can't hold a whole nation to blame for the actions of a few," she said.

"I had a wonderful time in Sudan. I adored it. If I had been allowed to, I would have gone back to school and got on with work."

I felt the warmth of all those good wishes even in my prison cell
Gillian Gibbons

However she reiterated her regret about the impact the incident had had on her pupils.

"As a teacher I feel very bad about my class because I know they were very upset. I was their teacher, they trusted me and I let them down."

On a more positive note, she said: "I got hundreds and hundreds of messages from people who said they were thinking of me and praying for me".

"I felt the warmth of all those good wishes even in my prison cell."

Mrs Gibbons flew back to the UK earlier this month to be reunited with her grown-up son and daughter.

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