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'Drug mule' duo remanded in custody

Two women arrested on suspicion of trying to smuggle cocaine worth £1.5 million out of Peru have been refused bail and could spend up to three years in prison awaiting trial, it has emerged.

Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid, both 20, face a maximum prison sentence of 15 years if convicted, the prosecutor's office in Callao, near Lima has said.

On Wednesday evening, during a public court appearance, the pair were formally charged with the promotion of drug trafficking and were refused bail.

McCollum, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, in Northern Ireland, and Reid, from Glasgow claim they were forced to carry the drugs - concealed in food packages - by an armed gang who threatened their family members.

But during the hearing, the judge reportedly asked the pair why they did not ask for help when they arrived at Lima airport, to which they replied they were threatened.

They have spent the last two weeks in custody over the drug trafficking allegations but are expected to be transferred to prison to await their trial.

McCollum's lawyer Peter Madden said they were effectively beginning a prison sentence as the pair were told in court it was unlikely they would be granted bail, according to reports.

The pair were at a public hearing in Lima. The judge questioned why the women did not ask for help when they had the opportunity at Lima airport.

The women told the court they were being threatened by "someone anonymous", according to Sky News.

At the hearing they were informed it could take three years for their trial to get under way should they plead not guilty. They were returned to prison to await trial.

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