A powerful Sudanese newspaper urged authorities to call a hardline Islamist leader linked to Osama bin Laden to give evidence at her trial, to stress how offensive the case was to Muslims.The Sudanese government already realizes that it's got a mess on its hands, and security is tight around the courtroom, but that doesn't diminish the role the government is playing in this whole mess.
Extreme Islamic groups said Mrs Gibbons "must die" and urged Muslims to hold street protests after prayers tomorrow.
Gibbons did nothing wrong. Her students, many of whom are Muslim, named a teddy bear after Mohammed, and one of the parents complained and got the ball rolling.
In a statement read to the court, Gibbons explained the incident and emphasized that her 7-year-old students picked the teddy bear's name, British Embassy spokesman Omar Daair told The Associated Press. Gibbons' lawyer said she would likely take the stand later.Sudanese justice may be swift, but it certainly isn't fair. I fear she's going to be railroaded into a guilty plea, if only to avert rioting should she be found not guilty.
The case set up an escalating diplomatic dispute with Britain, Sudan's former colonial ruler.
Prosecutor-General Salah Eddin Abu Zaid told the AP the British teacher could expect a "swift and fair trial." If convicted, she faces up to 40 lashes, six months in jail and a fine, with the verdict and any sentence up to the judge's discretion, official have said.
The judge ordered the prosecution to bring forward the person who originally raised the complaint against Gibbons — an office assistant at the Unity High School, said Isam Abu Hasabu, the head of the school's parent-teacher association, who was in the courtroom.
Gibbons' chief lawyer, Kamal Djizouri, scuffled with a tight police cordon before he was allowed in. British diplomats who were initially barred were also eventually allowed to enter.
Djizouri said he would argue her case based on Islamic Sharia law and show there was "absolutely no intention to insult religion, and for blasphemy to take place there must be an insult."
Gibbons was teaching her pupils, who are around age 7, about animals, and asked one of them to bring in her teddy bear, according to Robert Boulos, the director for Unity High School.
Gibbons asked the students to pick names for it and they proposed Abdullah, Hassan and Muhammad, and in September, the pupils voted to name it Muhammad, he said.
Each child was allowed to take the bear home on weekends and write a diary about what they did with it. The diary entries were collected in a book with the bear's picture on the cover, labeled, "My Name is Muhammad," he said. The bear itself was never labeled with the name, he added.
Initial reports said a parent had complained about Gibbons, but Boulos said he was later told it was a staffer. He said parents of the students supported Gibbons.
More to the point, it would further cement the status of Islamic law in the country, which bodes ill for all non Muslims in the country.
That was quick. Sudan court finds teacher guilty of insulting religion, Reuters reports. (HT: anonymous emailer)
Via the Reuters website - 15 days detention and deportation according to Gibbons' lawyer. The Islamists will not be pleased.
Others blogging: Michelle Malkin and Jammie,