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Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 20:15 GMT 21:15 UK
Hairdresser faces harsher charges
Philadelphia
Sarah Johnson was held in Philadelphia
Charges have been increased against a young West Midlands woman accused of breaching US airport security.

Sarah Johnson, from Wednesbury, was told at a pre-trial review on Wednesday that the new charge of criminal trespass means technically she faces a jail term.

She had been charged with the lesser count of defiant trespass when arrested shortly after boarding her plane at Philadelphia airport in February.

Her MP, Tom Watson, described the case as a "total over-reaction".

Cruise ship

Ms Johnson, a 22-year-old hairdresser, had been en route to a job on a cruise ship when she was arrested.

She had arrived late for her plane and been waved through checkpoints.

Airport security
Security was increased after 11 September

Her details were checked at the boarding gate, and she got on the flight to Puerto Rico.

She was arrested 15 minutes later and held for nearly 30 hours as a terrorism suspect.

Ms Johnson's American lawyer, John Elbert, said last week: "It is probably the most absurd case we have had in the United States with regard to airport security."

He claimed it was unlikely she would ever have been charged had it not been for increased sensitivities in the wake of September 11.

Tom Watson, the MP for West Bromwich East, said on Thursday: "We had all hoped the holding charge of defiant trespass would have been dropped.

"But instead Sarah was charged with criminal trespass, which is a lot more serious.

"Sarah did nothing wrong and followed the airport staff advice the whole time.

"It is total over-reaction and I am extremely disappointed."

He described Ms Johnson as being "absolutely gutted".


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