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Lawyers for 'El Chapo' Argue His Prison Conditions Are Too Strict

  • VOA News

Mexico's top drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted as he arrives at Long Island MacArthur airport in New York, U.S., Jan. 19, 2017, after his extradition from Mexico.

Lawyers for Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman complained Friday that strict jail conditions for their client were too harsh.

The lawyers told a judge in New York City that Guzman is locked up 23 hours a day and is not allowed to make phone calls, or see his wife or Mexican attorney. The lawyers requested easier access to their client as well as loosened jail restrictions, but were denied.

Judge Brian Cogan said he would defer to prison authorities about the jail conditions.

"It's an unusual case," he said. "Obviously they are taking extra security measures. We know the reasons for that."

Guzman has twice escaped from maximum-security prisons in Mexico. He last escaped from Altiplano prison in 2015 after maneuvering through a kilometer-long tunnel that was dug by his associates. He was recaptured a year ago.

Wife of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Emma Coronel, exits following his court appearance at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, Feb. 3, 2017.
Wife of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Emma Coronel, exits following his court appearance at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, Feb. 3, 2017.

Guzman, 59, smiled at his common-law wife, 27-year-old Emma Coronel, who attended the hearing Friday in a Brooklyn courtroom.

"This was so far the only way she has been able to see him," defense attorney Michelle Gelernt told reporters after the hearing. She said Guzman was even denied a glass of water in prison.

"I don’t think there's any thought that if I have the guards give him a glass of water during a three-hour meeting that somehow that’s going to effectuate an escape," she said.

The drug kingpin has pleaded not guilty to charges of running a massive drug-trafficking operation in North America, including money laundering, kidnapping and murder in cities throughout the United States, including Chicago, Miami and New York. The charges carry a mandatory life prison term.

Prosecutors say the U.S. government is also seeking a $14 billion forfeiture order as part of its prosecution.

They say Guzman's Sinaloa cartel operated for decades in much of North America and reaped billions of dollars by dispersing cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine throughout the United States.

The convicted cartel boss has spent the past year fighting extradition from Mexico.

Guzman's lawyer says his extradition was politically motivated.

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