London (AFP) - Peruvian authorities have accepted a request to transfer an Irish woman jailed for attempted cocaine smuggling to a prison back home in Northern Ireland, her lawyer said Wednesday.
Michaella McCollum, 21, from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, and Melissa Reid, from the Scottish city of Glasgow, were jailed in Peru last year for six years and eight months, having admitted trying to smuggle drugs out of the country.
Though from Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, McCollum is an Irish national and Dublin has been providing consular assistance in her case.
McCollum's Belfast-based lawyer, Kevin Winters, received a letter from Ireland's foreign ministry confirming that the transfer request had been accepted.
"The Peruvian authorities have confirmed that they have accepted Michaella's prison transfer request and have passed this to the UK National Offenders' Management Service (NOMS) which co-ordinates prisoner transfers to the UK," the letter said.
"In Ms McCollum's case, NOMS liaises with the Northern Ireland Prison Service and with the Peruvian prison service on all aspects of the transfer."
It may be several months before McCollum returns to Northern Ireland, where the prison service would have to complete the application process.
Details such as the logistics and financing of transferring a prisoner, and whether she would be eligible for early release, would have to be worked out between the authorities in Belfast and Lima.
The Northern Ireland Prison Service said it does not comment on individual cases.
Separately, Reid has applied for transfer to a Scottish prison.
Both were arrested on August 6 last year at Lima airport, when 5.7 kilogrammes of cocaine were found in McCollum's luggage and 5.8 kilogrammes in Reid's.
They were trying to board a plane for Spain, where they had been working on the party island of Ibiza.
The women pleaded guilty to the charges.
Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director for the Amnesty International human rights group said it was "understandable" why prisoners from Europe wanted to return home to complete their sentences.
He said there was "massive overcrowding, poor access to medical care and endemic corruption throughout Peru's penal system".