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Amnesty International asks to visit 'El Chapo' in New York jail

By Andrew V. Pestano
Amnesty International asks to visit 'El Chapo' in New York jail
Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán, pictured here in January 2016, was extradited to the United States on Jan 19. Amnesty International has asked a federal judge for permission to send a researcher to inspect Guzmán's conditions at the Manhattan jail where he is being held. File Photo by Jose Mendez/EPA

March 31 (UPI) -- Amnesty International has asked a federal judge for permission to visit Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán in his jail call in Manhattan to evaluate the conditions in which he is being held.

Among requests, Amnesty International asked U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of New York Brian M. Cogan to allow Guzmán to have direct contact with his wife, either in person or by telephone, and with public or private defense attorneys so that he can mount an adequate defense without disclosing the content of such contact with the government.

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Amnesty International also called for Guzmán to be transferred out of solitary confinement and into the general prison population.

The human rights organization asked Cogan for permission to send an Amnesty International USA researcher to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan to "investigate the conditions of Mr. Guzmán's confinement."

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"There is a considerable body of evidence in the U.S.A. and elsewhere, that prolonged isolation can cause serious and physical harm, particularly if accompanied by other deprivations such as lack of information about the outside world, confinement to an enclosed space and inadequate exercise," Justin Mazzola, deputy directer of research at Amnesty International USA, wrote in the letter. "Recent reports suggest that Mr. Guzmán has difficulty breathing and suffers from a sore throat and headaches due to his conditions of confinement. He has also complained that the air conditioning in the [Special Housing Unit] is kept at extremely cold levels, to the point where he is left shivering, and without proper clothing to stay warm."

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Earlier in March, Guzmán's lawyers also called for their client to be transferred from solitary confinement to the general prison population. His lawyers said Guzmán is "alone for 23 hours a day" in a "small, windowless cell."

Guzmán pleaded not guilty to 17 criminal charges related to his drug empire -- including corruption, murder, conspiracy, drug importation and money laundering.

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Guzmán's Sinaloa Cartel is credited with dominating the illegal drug market in nearly the entire United States. "El Chapo" -- meaning "The Short One" or "shorty" -- so dubbed because of his 5-foot-6-inch frame, was detained in Guatemala in 1993 and then extradited to Mexico to face murder and drug trafficking charges.

He escaped from prison in 2001 by hiding in a laundry cart after bribing prison guards, and was re-captured in February 2014. He was captured a second time in the city of Los Mochis in his home state of Sinaloa on Jan. 8 after escaping from Mexico's Altiplano Federal Prison on July 11, 2015.

Mexico extradited Guzmán to the United States on Jan. 19.

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