Briton and Irishwoman in Peruvian court on drug charge

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Two young women from Britain and Ireland appeared in a Peruvian court and were indicted on charges of trying to smuggle cocaine out of the country, prosecutors said.

If convicted they face between 15 and 18 years in jail for their alleged attempt to sneak a total of 11 kilos (24 pounds) of the drug out of Peru on a flight to Spain, said a statement from prosecutors.

Their case has triggered sensational headlines in their homelands, as they had initially been reported missing in Spain in July.

Two weeks ago, 20-year-old Michaella McCollum Connolly and 19-year-old Melissa Reid were arrested at Lima airport as they tried to board a flight to Spain carrying what Peruvian police said was 11 kilos of cocaine.

Connolly had previously been reported missing from her job on the Spanish holiday island of Ibiza in the Mediterranean, and well-wishers had launched a large-scale Internet campaign to find her.

After their arrest, the women told British reporters that they had been kidnapped by a drugs cartel, taken to Peru and forced to transport drugs.

But the claim was met with widespread skepticism and Peruvian authorities did not buy the story.

The pair was led into court Tuesday in handcuffs, as photographers and Reid's British parents, who flew out in recent days to support her, looked on.

There was no word on a trial date.

Both women looked scared as they walked into court. They wore jeans and T-shirts, and had undergone a medical examination prior to their court appearance.

Police sources quoted by the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio said the women may have been recruited by a local drug trafficking ring.