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Pair await Peru drug charge decision

Two women from the UK arrested in Peru on suspicion of drug smuggling are awaiting a judge's decision on whether they should be charged.

Michaella McCollum, from Dungannon, and Melissa Reid, from Lenzie near Glasgow, spent the night in courthouse cells.

Presiding judge Dilo Huaman is waiting for the charge sheet to arrive from the public prosecutor's office.

Ms McCollum's lawyer Peter Madden said he expected the pair to be charged with drug trafficking and plead not guilty.

'Grim conditions'

The Peruvian judiciary said Mr Huaman would spend several hours reviewing the prosecution document before deciding whether or not to proceed with the charges against the two 20-year-olds.

If the judge decides the charges stand against Ms McCollum and Ms Reid it is likely they will be moved to prison on Wednesday. There may be a private hearing if the judge is unsure.

The courthouse is in Callao, the port district to the north of the Peruvian capital, Lima.

Mr Madden criticised the conditions the women were being kept in, saying they had not been fed all day on Tuesday.

He said Ms McCollum's brother Sean had not been allowed to see her, although the lawyer and an accompanying priest had.

Mr Madden said: "The conditions inside the holding cells are pretty grim.

"They are expected to lie on the floor, there's a sort of a sponge-type bed which is just not acceptable. There are no blankets, it's not clean.

"And the most important thing is they haven't actually been offered any food today and it doesn't look as though they are going to be."

Medical examination

Ms McCollum and Ms Reid are accused of trying to smuggle 11kg (24lb) of cocaine, with a street value of £1.5, out of Peru in food packages in their luggage.

The pair were stopped while trying to board a flight to Madrid two weeks ago.

Both women say they were forcibly recruited as drug mules by an armed gang while working in bars on the Spanish island of Ibiza, and travelled to Peru under duress.

Ms McCollum and Ms Reid were taken from their cells in Lima on Tuesday and transferred by police escort to the neighbouring province of Callao, which has jurisdiction over their case.

The women were given a brief medical examination before being taken to the public prosecutor's office where they gave full statements.

Drug trafficking carries an average sentence of eight to nine years in prison, but there are harsher sentences for being part of a criminal organisation.

The women could face up to three years in jail before trial if they are refused bail.

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