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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 January, 2004, 16:08 GMT
US 'bomb joke' student released
Samantha Marson
Samantha Marson is said to have repeated the joke twice
A 21-year-old British student who was arrested at an American airport after joking she had a bomb in her bags has been released on bail.

Samantha Marson triggered a security alert as she boarded a British Airways flight from Miami back to Britain.

She has been held in custody since Saturday and was visited by British consular officials on Wednesday.

She was released on bail of $5,000 (2,700) and told to return for a court hearing on 6 February.

BBC correspondent Jeremy Cooke, in Miami, said Miss Marson was "clearly delighted" to have been released.

'Foolish'

He said there was speculation a British tabloid newspaper had put up the student's bail.

He understood she was free to return to the UK because she had not been required to surrender her passport.

Miss Marson had earlier told the BBC she was "very sorry" for what had been a "foolish mistake".

Miss Marson, from Bridgnorth, Shropshire, was arrested after apparently telling officials at Miami airport that she had a bomb in her rucksack.

A spokesman for the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office said she faces a maximum of 15 years in state prison if convicted.

Miami International Airport
There's no room for playing games at security checkpoints
Sergeant Joe Wyche
Miami Airport Police

According to the arrest report, Miss Marson placed her bag on the belt at a security check, telling a Transportation Security Administration screener: "Hey be careful, I have three bombs in here" - before allegedly repeating the joke twice more when confronted by officials.

She was taken into custody and within hours appeared before a judge who remanded her to Dade County Jail.

Sergeant Joe Wyche from Miami Airport Police told BBC Midlands Today that officers had been left with no choice but to arrest Miss Marson.

"First of all, it's a violation of our state law.

"Before 9/11 we took it seriously - after 9/11 there's no room for kidding or joking, if that's the person's intention, so it's taken in a serious manner."

Sgt Wyche added: "There's no room for playing games at security checkpoints.

"I'm sure probably over in Britain if similar comments are made it's not laughed upon."

Serious

Miss Marson's father Jim, 75, said earlier: "We are beside ourselves with worry.

"She phoned at about 3am on Sunday and was hysterical.

"I'm sure Samantha will accept that it's a silly thing to say, but she's the sort of girl who might have thought it would make people laugh."

She had been in the US for three months with her American boyfriend and was returning to the UK to renew her visa when she was detained.

Miss Marson's local MP called on the US authorities to deal with her case more "appropriately".

Matthew Green, the Liberal Democrat MP for Ludlow, said her comments had been "stupid but not worthy of weeks in prison".

Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic warned on Tuesday of the dangers of joking about security.

A Virgin spokesman said: "With security levels so high at present, there are certain things you do not joke about."


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"She was clearly delighted when she stepped out into the sunlight"


Samantha Marson
"I made a foolish mistake"



SEE ALSO:
Teenager barred from flight
14 Mar 03  |  England
'Joke' threats discouraged
19 Feb 03  |  England


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