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Pretoria - As soon as she arrived at the OR Tambo International Airport from a trip to Sao Paulo in Brazil, a pretty young woman travelling alone was subjected to a humiliating strip search by police and Sars officials who apparently suspected her of being a drug mule.

Loinice Linden from Cape Town is now claiming about R760 000 in damages from the ministers of police and finance, and from Sars.

She stated in papers before the Pretoria High Court that she was specifically targeted because she was a black woman.

Linden’s nightmare started when she landed at 3pm on August 12, 2010, on flight SAA 255 from Sao Paulo. She was detained until shortly before 5pm.

A male officer searched her luggage, removing and examining the contents of her bag, even her underwear, in the presence of other people, she said.

“The officers made snide and humiliating comments during the search,” she stated.

Linden said when she asked one of the officials what they were looking for, he replied: “You obviously don’t travel much. If you did, you’d know that at customs we can do what we like.”

Two woman officers then took her to a room where they told her to take off all her clothes, she said. When she was naked, they told her to do squats as they “wanted to see what was inside her”.

The officers then escorted her to a hospital in Kempton Park in full view of members of the public.

She was told to put on a hospital gown and had to walk barefoot to be X-rayed, she said.

Afterwards she was taken back to the airport. When she asked why she was X-rayed, no one answered her and she presumed they were looking for drugs.

“One of them (later) replied ‘You are a pretty girl, you are travelling alone and that is a high risk’.”

Linden said that through their conduct, the officials intentionally humiliated her, violated her privacy and discriminated against her on the grounds of race and sex.

She felt humiliated and intimidated and suffered shock and trauma, she said.

Linden says she now suffers post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, has a fear of flying and suffers from depression.

The respondents are to defend the claim, with Sars noting an exception against Linden’s particulars of claim on technical grounds.

Judge Bert Bam, however, gave Linden the go-ahead to proceed with her claim and said the objection by Sars was unsubstantiated.

No date has yet been set for the next hearing.

Pretoria News