Women charged in Peru over drug smuggling are refused bail
Lawyer for McCollum Connolly ‘surprised’ at late law change to hold hearing in public
State prosecutors charged them less than 24 hours after police handed them over following a two-week investigation.
The two women were arrested on August 6th after police found 11kg of cocaine in their luggage at Lima International Airport.
The women, who were living and working in bars in Ibiza over the summer, claim they were forced to Peru to bring back drugs to Europe by armed Colombian criminals who threatened them and their families if they failed to obey orders and followed them every step of the way.
Police have cast doubt on the women’s claims and say they suspect they were simply in it for the money like other mules caught trying to smuggle drugs out of Peru, the world’s biggest cocaine producer.
The women - along with over half the inmates of Peruvian prisons - are likely to spend months or even years awaiting trial and sentencing.
A spokesman for Peru’s Prison Service, which will decide where to remand them after medicals and psychological tests, said late last night: “They have yet to be handed over to us but we expect that to take place this week.”
Commenting this evening Ms McCollum Connolly’s lawyer Peter Madden said the two women had effectively begun serving a prison sentence after they were refused bail.
“Their main concern at the minute is that they may be separated, sent to different prisons,” he said.
“They are very concerned that might happen. They did not know each other before this started, they have now become best friends.”
Mr Madden said the girls were “confused and frightened”.
He said both women had been threatened at gunpoint in Ibiza where they had been working since the beginning of June, adding they were forced under duress to travel to Peru to smuggle cocaine in their luggage.
He said the women, who both deny the allegations, would enter not guilty pleas.
Ms McCollum Connolly’s brother Keith was not allowed to visit his sister in a holding cell in a courthouse in Callao. Mr Madden and a local priest did gain access to her and said there was no bedding or mattresses provided for the women to sleep on.
“Each time I see them they are getting more and more worried.”
“I know they were very frightened today, because they were put into a very small confined area with pretty Spartan conditions.”
The women deny the drug trafficking allegations and claim they were forced to carry the bags by armed men.
If they contest the charges it is estimated that they will have to wait a year and a half if not longer if the before the case goes to trial.
If they plead guilty the case might come before the court in six months.