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2 women arrested in Peru in drug trafficking case to appear in court

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Wed August 14, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The two women ages 19 and 20 were arrested at an airport in Lima
  • One of the suspects, Melissa Reid, says she was made to carry the bags
  • Archbishop says the two are being treated well in detention

(CNN) -- A Scottish and an Irish woman arrested in Peru on suspicion of drug trafficking are expected to appear before a judge Wednesday.

Melissa Reid, 19, from Scotland, and Michaella McCollum, 20, from Ireland, were arrested by Peruvian national police at Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima on August 6.

They were stopped as they tried to board an Air Europa flight from Lima to Madrid after authorities allegedly found 11.59 kilograms (25.5 pounds) of cocaine in their luggage. Their final destination was Palma de Mallorca.

The cocaine was found inside pouches of oatmeal and dehydrated foods.

"I was forced to take these bags in my luggage," Reid said in video footage of the police interrogation.

McCollum's family issued a statement Tuesday saying that they stand behind their daughter and are making arrangements to go to Peru.

"Michaella's family are obviously shocked and distressed by the recent events but are confident that Michaella will be exonerated," family attorney Peter Madden said.

According to police, the pair were contacted by a Colombian named "Enrique" in Palma de Mallorca through a tourism company that flew them to Lima and then to Machu Picchu. But the tourism was cover for a plan to smuggle the drugs, police said.

Archbishop of Lima Sean Walsh, an Irish-American bishop who's been in Peru for seven years, said he met briefly with the young women in the police cell where they are being held.

He said the two are in good condition, are eating well, have clean clothing and are receiving good care.

Walsh dismissed media reports suggesting they are not being treated well and that one of the women is on a hunger strike.

Reid and McCollum are expected to appear before a judge Wednesday, he said. The Ministry of Justice normally has an official translator present, said Walsh, who often visits foreigners held in jail in Lima.

While he was visiting the women, a prosecutor entered and told them that they needed to cooperate as fully as possible, Walsh said.

He expects to see the pair again Wednesday evening, he added.

Walsh is not aware whether they have an attorney. The court system in Peru provides a public defender, but they may try to hire private defense lawyers, he added.

Peru is now the world's top cultivator of coca, the plant whose leaves are used to produce cocaine. It overtook Colombia for the dubious honor.

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