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U.S. murder suspect in Bali denied private legal consultations: lawyer

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[August 26, 2014]  By Fiona Ortiz
 CHICAGO (Reuters) - A Chicago-area teenager detained in connection with the death of her mother on the resort island of Bali is not being allowed to meet privately with her legal team in Indonesia, her U.S.-based lawyer said.

Michael Elkin, Chicago-based attorney for 19-year-old Heather Mack, called on Indonesian authorities to allow her local legal advisers and investigators working on her case to meet with her in a private setting.

Mack and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, 21, were arrested on Aug. 13 as suspects in the death of Mack's mother, 62-year-old Sheila von Wiese-Mack, whose battered body was found in a suitcase in a taxi outside the luxury St. Regis hotel.

Mack and her mother had a troubled relationship and von Wiese-Mack had frequently reported that her daughter punched and bit her, according to police reports cited by Chicago media.

"Local investigators and/or counsel must be allowed access to Heather if police officials genuinely wish cooperation from Heather in a transparent manner," Elkin said in a statement on Monday. "Heather is innocent of the allegations."

Bali police said there were no further developments in the investigation and that the suspects are not giving any statements, on advice of their American lawyers.

Police appointed Indonesian lawyer Haposan Sihombing to represent the two Americans, but Mack has refused to make statements to him on Elkin's advice.

"I met with Heather yesterday and a letter has been sent by Michael Elkin to Bali police about changing (local) lawyers," Sihombing said on Tuesday.

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"Until a new lawyer is appointed, I will remain as her lawyer to assist Heather," he said, adding that Mack was in "good spirits".

A legal team from Elkin's Chicago office is preparing to travel to Bali, his office said.

It was not clear whether Schaefer has retained an American attorney.

The two suspects have not been formally charged with a crime. Under Indonesian law charges would follow an investigation that could take weeks.

(Additional reporting by Trisha Sertori in UBUD, Indonesia, and Kanupriya Kapoor in JAKARTA; Editing by Michael Perry)

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