Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman returns to court in drug case

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Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is escorted from a plane in New York in January. | AP

NEW YORK — Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is returning to a Brooklyn courtroom Friday, a day after a judge rejected his request to be allowed in the general inmate population.

The 59-year-old defendant, famous for twice escaping from prison in Mexico, lost his bid Thursday to relax the terms of his confinement at a lower Manhattan lockup when U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan concluded that solitary confinement was appropriate.

Cogan said the U.S. government had good justifications for applying tough jail conditions on a man who escaped twice, including once through a mile-long tunnel stretching from the shower in his cell. But Cogan relaxed the restrictions known as Special Administrative Measures enough for Guzman to communicate with his wife through written questions and answers.

His lawyers said in a statement that it was “devastating” for Guzman and his wife that they will not be allowed jail visits.

Guzman was brought to the U.S. in January to face charges that he oversaw a multibillion-dollar international drug trafficking operation responsible for murders and kidnappings. He has pleaded not guilty.

He has remained in a 20-by-12-foot cell for 23 hours a day in a wing of the Metropolitan Correctional Center that often is used to house high-risk inmates including terrorists.

The U.S. government has said severe restrictions are necessary for Guzman in part because he used coded messages, bribes and other means to continue operating his drug empire from behind bars and arrange escapes.

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