Belfast Telegraph

Peru drug arrests: Michaella well treated in jail, but she has to buy her food and water

BY JOANNE SWEENEY

The solicitor representing Michaella McCollum Connolly has spoken of the jail conditions she is facing in Peru while awaiting trial on drug-smuggling charges.

The 20-year-old Dungannon woman has to pay for her own inedible food and bottles of water while surrounded by non-English speaking prisoners and staff at Lima's Fatima prison, Peter Madden claimed.

The Belfast lawyer, who returned home on Sunday night from Peru, said Michaella and her co-accused were the only English-speaking people inside the prison.

"While the prison is not as bad as we were led to believe, in that my client didn't have to buy a mattress to sleep on, she has to pay for her own food and bottles of water each day as well as international phone cards.

"Apart from having to pay for it, the food is bad as well, and even the prison authorities would admit that.

"And if she wants to have better food, then she pays for it.

"It costs a small amount per meal, about £1 roughly in our money. She and Ms Reid find it really difficult to understand the instructions that the guards tell them or read any signs

"There is no one else there who speaks English so the situation is very, very difficult for them both."

He added: "The women are being treated fairly well – they are not being abused in any way."

He said that both women were allowed outside to a courtyard during the day where they mixed with other women prisoners and bunked together separately away from other prisoners at night.

Mr Madden confirmed that Michaella had recently been able to phone her family.

He agreed that the reality of the situation was now hitting home with his client.

"At the start when I spoke to Michaella, she believed that once she told her story to the police that this would be all over very quickly and a statement would be taken and she would be released."

On the possibility of Michaella changing her plea in the light of Ms Reid's father advising her to do so, in return for a lesser sentence, Mr Madden spoke of the "great pressure" on his client.

"In Peru, it's called 'taking responsibility for your crime' and if people do that, until last Tuesday, they would normally have got for that weight of drugs, six years and eight months, serving a third in prison, with two thirds on remission to be paroled in the country."

He added: "But that law was changed and things there are very, very fluid."

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