Flight to Freedom; 'Good British Grit': Gillian Gibbons Has Been Freed after Eight Days in Custody. Inset: Her Son John Is Waiting to Welcome Her Home

Daily Mail (London), December 4, 2007 | Go to article overview

Flight to Freedom; 'Good British Grit': Gillian Gibbons Has Been Freed after Eight Days in Custody. Inset: Her Son John Is Waiting to Welcome Her Home


Byline: David Williams

GILLIAN Gibbons is expected to arrive home in Britain today after beingpardoned and freed by Sudan's president.

The 54-year-old teacher, jailed after letting her young pupils call a teddybear Mohammed, was said to be looking forward to being reunited with her familyand enjoying a 'plate of fish and chips'.

News of her release after eight days in custody led to an immediate angry butsmall protest outside the British Embassy in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

The mother of two, from Liverpool, was handed over to British officials shortlyafter the Muslim peers Lord Ahmed and Baroness Warsi met President Omar al-Bashir to press for her release from a 15-day sentence for insulting Islam.

Hours later they were in first-class seats on an Emirates Airlines flight fromKhartoum to London, via Dubai.

Mrs Gibbons, wearing a black polka dot top and looking relieved, said: 'I justwant to relax. I don't want to say any more, I'm too tired.' Foreign SecretaryDavid Miliband praised Mrs Gibbons's steadfastness and good cheer through adifficult process.

'I did say to her that it must have been event.' release and speaking of hersadness to be leaving Sudan.

very tough over the last week and she did say, "Well, it was prison but itwasn't too bad a prison" or words to that effect,' he said. 'She's shown verygood British grit.' Foreign Office officials denied that any deal had been donebut later Lord Ahmed, a Labour peer, pointedly referred to the more than[pounds sterling]125million in humanitarian aid given to Sudan since 2004 and money earmarkedfor the future.

A delighted Mrs Gibbons issued a carefully-worded and diplomatic statementthanking those who had brokered her release and speaking of her sadness to beleaving Sudan.

'I have encountered nothing but kindness and generosity from the Sudanesepeople,' she said, 'I have great respect for the Islamic religion and would notknowingly offend anyone and I am sorry if I have caused any distress.' MrsGibbons, who had worked for four months teaching mainly Muslim seven-year-oldsat the Unity High School in Khartoum, went on: 'I was extremely happy in theschool and I have made some wonderful friends.

'My class was delighted and were making wonderful progress with their studies.I will miss them terribly and I am very sad to think that they have beendistressed by this event.' Diplomats took Mrs Gibbons to the school to collectpersonal belongings and say goodbye to staff - one of whom made the complaintthat led to her arrest on November 25 and conviction last Thursday.

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Flight to Freedom; 'Good British Grit': Gillian Gibbons Has Been Freed after Eight Days in Custody. Inset: Her Son John Is Waiting to Welcome Her Home
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