Women charged in Peru over drug smuggling are refused bail
Lawyer for McCollum Connolly ‘surprised’ at late law change to hold hearing in public
Two women arrested on suspicion of trying to smuggle cocaine worth € 1.7 million from Peru have been refused bail and could spend up to three years in prison awaiting trial, it emerged last night.
Last night, during a public court appearance, the pair were formally charged with the promotion of drug trafficking and were refused bail.
They were moved from the courthouse to another in central Lima, where they will be held for a day or two until they are moved to one of the women’s prisons - most likely Santa Monica in the south east of the city.
Judge Dilo Huaman remanded the pair in custody after rejecting their pleas for bail. The women, who were present in court, were led away in handcuffs.
The judge listened as the prosecutor outlined the case and the defence responded. He then asked the women, who looked tired and drawn, why they had not asked for help at any point. Both women responding through their interpreter said that they had been threatened and were afraid to do so.
The public prosecutor said that their story was “incoherent”. The prosecutor’s office said it will seek a custodial sentence of between 8-15 years.
The judge said there was enough evidence to formally charge them with drug trafficking. Miss McCollum and Miss Reid were both charged with the illegal trafficking of just over 5kg of cocaine.
A surprise change in the law on Tuesday meant that the hearing which was supposed to be held in private was actually held in public.
Their lawyer Peter Madden said that the women, their lawyers and family were completely unaware of this change in regulation.
“What was particularly upsetting was that the families of the two girls were not present at the hearing because they had been told that the session would take place in strict privacy with only the judge, the accused and relevant legal representatives allowed to attend.” said Mr Madden.
He described the women as “shell-shocked” when they went into the courtroom and realised it was in open court. He also said that Michaella McCollum, Melissa Reid, their lawyer and families should have been informed about this new situation.
The hearing came after they got their first real taste of prison life by spending a night in cramped court cells with no food or bedding.
Their first two weeks since their arrest on suspicion of drugs trafficking were spent in the relative comfort of police cells before their hand-over to state prosecutors to be charged.
The punishment for the crime the pair are accused of carries a prison sentence of between eight and 15 years in Peru.