Family of Brisbane woman jailed in Bolivia pleads for public to take notice

Article by Lauren Gillin /
Brisbane Times /
February 23, 2014 /
Click here to view original /

While Australia’s media and public have been poring over every detail of Schapelle Corby’s time in Bali, another Queensland woman has been sitting in a deadly foreign prison largely unnoticed.

Brisbane 24-year-old Alana Miles has been held in Bolivia’s Palmasola prison for the past 11 months under suspicion of drug trafficking.

The prison was the site of a riot in August last year that left 31 people dead.

The former university student and childcare worker was allegedly intercepted leaving Bolivia for Malaysia carrying two kilos of cocaine concealed in a backpack on March 18, 2013.

Considered a flight risk, she has been held without charge ever since.

Alana’s family said if she was charged and found guilty she could face a 25-year jail sentence.

Her sister Kylie Miles said Alana was naïve and had been set up by a friend she studied with online.

She said Alana had a sheltered adolescence in and out of hospital fighting Leukaemia, as well as suffering from diabetes.

“My sister would not even know what cocaine looked like except for in the movies,” Kylie said.

“After all she went through in her teenage years she just wanted to travel.”

She said Alana’s online friend had contacted the 24-year-old while she was on holiday in Malaysia, and offered to help pay for flights to visit Bolivia.

She said the friend also provided a bag to Alana which appeared brand new with tags attached.

The same bag was later allegedly found to contain bricks of cocaine, wrapped in foam and sewn into the lining.

Ms Miles said Bolivian authorities had not been able to locate the friend – known only by his nickname – since Alana’s arrest.

In the meantime, Alana’s health is deteriorating because her family has been unable to source the correct insulin for her in Bolivia.

Kylie said she hoped to raise awareness of her sister’s plight and raise money for her legal fees.

She said she was surprised by the lack of interest in Alana’s case, especially in the wake of the extreme attention given to Schapelle Corby’s case.

Dr Lauren Rosewarne a media commentator and researcher from Melbourne University said the lack of protagonist with the same appeal as Schapelle Corby was probably behind the differing level of media coverage.

“To understand why other Australians locked up abroad narratives don’t make the papers, we need to examine what those stories lack, a Schapelle-like star at the helm,” she said.