Lawyer in talks on Peru drugs case
A solicitor for a woman accused of trying to smuggle £1.5 million worth of cocaine said he intends to discuss her case with police in Peru.
Human rights lawyer Peter Madden will go to a police holding centre in Lima where Michaella McCollum Connolly and co-accused Melissa Reid are being detained. In a statement released through his Belfast-based firm, Mr Madden said he would not be commenting on the case until after the meeting.
Ms McCollum Connolly from Dungannon, Co Tyrone in Northern Ireland and Ms Reid, 20, from Glasgow are being held on drug trafficking allegations.
The pair were arrested last week while trying to board a flight from Lima to Madrid. Police said they found around 11 kilos of cocaine hidden inside food packages in their luggage. Both women deny the allegations and claim they were forced to carry the bags by armed men. They have yet to be formally charged but could be held up for up to 30 days before appearing in court. If refused bail they face up to three years in jail before a trial.
Previously, Mr Madden who provided legal representation for three Irish republicans arrested in 2001 in Colombia for allegedly training members of Farc, said he hoped the legal system in Peru would be fair.
"I think there is hope but it depends very much on the prosecuting authorities here as to whether or not they're going to do this in a fair way, because the process here seems to be that once you're charged there's no bail for these type of offences and she will have to go to trial," he said.
Both women had travelled separately to the party island of Ibiza in search of work this summer. Before news of the arrests broke the family of Ms McCollum Connolly, a photography student and former nightclub hostess, had launched an internet campaign fearing she was missing.
Meanwhile, a senior Spanish police officer said he did not believe they had been acting under duress. First sergeant Alberto Arian Barilla, the head of the Ibiza police unit responsible for countering organised crime, told the BBC: "In my experience I don't think these two girls were forced to do this because - particularly when you go to South America - you need to pass several controls."
Further questions about the two women's version of events were raised following the emergence of photographs that allegedly show them posing on a balcony and on a beach with glasses of beer days before they were arrested at Lima airport. The pair say they were told to take photos of themselves at tourist spots to make it look like they were friends travelling together, the Daily Mail said.
Peruvian police are expected to hand their investigation to the state prosecutor's office later so that formal charges can be made against the two women, the BBC said. The findings will form the basis of a pre-trial hearing that will determine what the pair are to be charged with.