A Belfast solicitor representing a young woman from Northern Ireland who has been accused of attempted drug trafficking in Peru has criticised some of the media coverage of the case.
Michaella McCollum Connelly, 20, from Dungannon and Melissa Reid, 20, from Glasgow in Scotland were arrested as they tried to board a flight from Lima to Madrid on August 6.
Peruvian authorities say they found more than £1.5 million-worth of cocaine stashed in food products in their baggage.
Solicitor Peter Madden flew out to Peru this week. He visited Michaella in the police holding cell where she has spent the past 14 days.
He claimed last night that some recent press coverage of the case had been “bizarre”.
“I’ve seen some very strange press reports over the weekend about this case,” Mr Madden said.
“The ones that I saw I put to Michaella and she totally denies them. Some of them, as I say, are just not true and some of them are just really bizarre.”
There has been extensive coverage of the case online and in newspapers. At the weekend some of the coverage reported on the drugs scene in Ibiza and questioned the two women’s stories.
Mr Madden was due to meet with police to discuss the case after visiting his client. Two weeks after their initial arrest, the two women are still waiting to be formally charged with a crime.
Police in Peru are understood to have concluded their investigation into the case, which should now be with the public prosecutor’s office.
The contents of that report will form the basis of any charges against the pair, which they are expected to hear in a courtroom today.
Michaella and Melissa have claimed that they were forced by an armed gang to carry the cocaine they were arrested with in their luggage at Lima Airport.
They both say they were forcibly recruited as drug mules by the gang while working in bars in the Spanish island of Ibiza and travelled to Peru under duress.
They are expected to plead not guilty, if charged.
Peru’s anti-drug police lead investigator Tito Perez,told the BBC his unit had been checking the women’s version of events by travelling to the hotels they had stayed in.
Officers had also gathered video evidence from the city of Cuzco where they claimed the drug gang had taken them, he said.
The report is due to form the basis of the pre-trial hearing which will determine what the two young women will be charged with.
If refused bail, they could face up to three years in jail before trial.
The BBC have reported that legal experts in Peru suggest the normal charge in such a case would be for drug smuggling, which carries an average sentence of about eight to nine years in prison.
If they are accused of being members of a criminal organisation, they could face harsher sentences.
A few weeks ago Michaella had been working in Ibiza when her family lost touch with her.
A high-profile campaign was launched to locate her after which she was found to have been arrested in Peru.
After being arrested by police, she told the Daily Mirror she naively believed she might even be able to return to the UK when police realised she and her friend had been kidnapped – and that she could hide the whole thing from her mother.
However, the women now fear the Peruvian police have no intention of investigating their claims.