The family of Michaella McCollum from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, insists she is innocent, despite McCollum's guilty plea in Lima. The family has given their first interview since the "Peru Two" were sentenced earlier this week.
The family hopes to mount a legal bid to get McCollum returned to the UK so she can serve her sentence in a Northern Irish jail.
Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid, the "Peru Two," were caught smuggling £1.5 million ($2.5m) worth of cocaine and were sentenced to just under seven years in a Peruvian prison earlier this week.
However, it has been reported that the women could be released within two-and-a-half years for good behavior. Taking into account the amount of time each has already served they could be free as soon as 2016, according to TheDaily Mail.
The women escaped the maximum 15-year penalty in return for pleading guilty and passing on information about the gang for which they were smuggling the drugs when arrested.
McCollum’s family has said that they will not be celebrating Christmas this year as their “baby” faces the festive season in a Peruvian prison, Independent.ie reports.
During a television interview with ITV’s ‘Daybreak’ yesterday, Samantha McCollum protested Michaella’s innocence and said: “In our opinion Michaella is innocent; in our opinion she will always be innocent.”
“Michaella has never been in trouble before so this is a very big shock to us, and we will all support her.”
Samantha also said her sister was coping “really, really well” inside prison.
“Her faith has kept her going; she is very positive and optimistic, knowing this is going to bring her out very strong,” she said.
Earlier this week the pair emerged from the back of a prison van shortly after the verdict was read out and were escorted into the courtroom inside Sarita Colonia jail in the port of Callao. Neither of the women made comments or looked at the press.
The pair were led into a makeshift courtroom at Lima Men’s Prison in Sarita Colonia, at about 10.30am local time.
Judge Pedro Miguel Puente Bardales read out the sentence at the end of the 20-minute hearing, which was closed to the press and public. The pair will now apply to serve part of their sentence in the UK.
But according to their lawyers, the process is fraught with ‘bureaucratic hurdles’ and they could be released before it is granted.
A court spokesman said: ‘Michaella and Melissa only spoke to say they agreed with the sentence and ask through a translator if they could serve out their sentences in Britain. It was explained to them that this was something they had to discuss with their lawyer.
According to The Daily Mail, the womens’ Peruvian lawyer Meyer Fishman described the sentence as the ‘least worst option’ and said they would, ‘in theory,’ qualify for early release.
But he said: ‘There are judges that say “yes” and there are judges that say “no”.’
Following their arrest on August 6 the pair claimed they had been kidnapped by an armed gang and flown to Peru.
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