Peru judge remands British, Irish pair in custody
Lima: A Peruvian judge has ordered that two young women from Britain and Ireland be remanded in custody pending trial on drug trafficking charges.
Michaella McCollum Connolly, 20, and Melissa Reid, 19, were arrested two weeks ago at Lima`s international airport with 11 kg of cocaine.
Connolly is Irish and Reid is British.
In ordering preventive detention for the two, Judge Dilo Huaman on Wednesday rejected defense arguments that they had been threatened with death if they refused to carry the drugs.
Huaman said he had seen enough proof to show the two women had committed a "drug trafficking crime against public health and the state."
"The accused have admitted knowing that they were transporting drugs and did not deny it" to police, he said.
If convicted, the pair face eight to 15 years in prison.
The two women appeared Wednesday in the court in El Callao, a suburb of Lima, accompanied by their lawyers and a translator, through whom they answered a few questions before the judge rendered his decision.
McCollum Connolly had previously been reported missing from her job on the Spanish holiday island of Ibiza in the Mediterranean, and well-wishers had launched a large-scale Internet campaign to find her.
After their arrest on August 6 at Lima`s airport as they tried to board a plane for Spain, the women told British reporters that they had been kidnapped by a drug cartel, taken to Peru and forced to transport drugs.
But the claim was met with widespread skepticism, and Peruvian authorities did not buy the story.
"The threats they claim to have suffered are not enough to justify their link with illegal drug trafficking," Huaman said Wednesday, after the women reiterated their claims in court.
The cocaine was found stashed in packages of cereal in the belongings of both Connolly and Reid.
The prosecutor in charge of the investigation said that among the evidence against the pair was a recording of a phone call in which they are told what to do to smuggle the drugs.
When asked by Huaman why they had not gone to police to report the alleged threats made against them, Connolly said, via the translator: "When we were kidnapped in Ibiza, they threatened us and our families... We were scared."
The pair had appeared into court Tuesday in handcuffs, as photographers and Reid`s British parents, who flew out in recent days to support her, looked on.
There was no word on a trial date.
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