Peru drug suspects wait to learn charges

Wednesday 21 August 2013 00.25
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Michaella McCollum has not yet been charged
Michaella McCollum has not yet been charged
Ms McCollum and Melissa Reid are expected to enter not guilty pleas
Ms McCollum and Melissa Reid are expected to enter not guilty pleas

Two women arrested on suspicion of trying to smuggle over 11kg of cocaine from Peru are waiting to find out what charges they will face.

Michaella McCollum, 20, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, and Melissa Reid, 20, from Glasgow, have spent the last two weeks in custody over drug trafficking allegations.

The pair were arrested while trying to board a flight from Lima to Madrid. Peruvian police said they found cocaine hidden inside food packages.

The women, who both deny the allegations and say they were forced to carry the bags under duress, are expected to enter not guilty pleas.

They were medically examined today before being moved to a detention centre in Lima.

They made no comment as they left the public prosecutor's office amid a media scrum earlier.

If refused bail, the women face up to three years in jail before a trial.

They both deny the allegations and claim they were forced to carry the bags by armed men.

Ms McCollum's lawyer Peter Madden has said the Peruvian authorities have not communicated what charges have been filed.

He said: "They don't know what's going to happen, and the decision about charging and the prosecution are very difficult to communicate.

"I haven't been told officially yet that they have been charged.

"The fact that they are here will probably indicate that they have. But it hasn't been communicated to my colleague - the Peruvian lawyer - that they have been charged yet."

Mr Madden described the conditions in the detention centre as "pretty grim".

He said: "They're both in a holding cell. There are two other women there, but they haven't gotten anything to eat today.

"They haven't been offered any food and to me that is unacceptable. The conditions inside the holding cells are pretty grim.

"They are expected to lie almost on the floor. There is a sort of sponge-type bed, which is just not acceptable. There are no blankets. It's not clean."