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Strict jail conditions for ‘El Chapo’ to stay in place, judge rules

Authorities escort Joaquin

Authorities escort Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, center, from a plane at Long Island MacArthur Airport on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in Ronkonkoma. Photo Credit: AP

A Brooklyn federal judge on Thursday upheld isolation and strict security conditions in jail for accused drug trafficker Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and gave a thumbs-down to a proposed Amnesty International visit with the celebrity prisoner.

“Defense counsel has not pointed to a single action that Amnesty International would take that defense counsel would not, other than further sensationalize an already sensationalized case,” U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan wrote.

Cogan also nixed Guzman’s bid for in-person visits and phone calls with his wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, which have been banned based on fears he might use her to run drug operations, intimidate witnesses or arrange a repeat of his escapes from Mexican jails.

The judge said he would allow screened written messages between Guzman and his wife, but said, “Statements can be made in-person or via telephone where contemporaneous monitoring may not pick up a concealed message.”

Guzman, 59, has been held in solitary confinement conditions at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan since he was extradited from Mexico in January to face charges of running the Sinaloa Cartel, a violent cocaine smuggling enterprise.

His lawyers, federal public defenders, have complained that security restrictions have prevented him from retaining private lawyers and violated his constitutional rights. Amnesty International volunteered in late March to visit Guzman and assess his conditions.

After Cogan’s ruling, Guzman’s lawyers said they still believed his jail conditions were “untenable” and lamented the continuing ban on spousal visits. “We’re extremely disappointed that Mr. Guzman and his wife will not be able to see or speak to each other,” said defense lawyer Michelle Gelernt. “This is devastating news for both of them.”

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