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Sunday 18 February 2018

Mexico approves extradition to US of drug lord El Chapo

The US is seeking the extradition of Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman (AP)
The US is seeking the extradition of Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman (AP)

The extradition of convicted drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to the United States can move forward, Mexico's Foreign Relations Department has ruled .

But the process can still be appealed, meaning it could be weeks or months before the Sinaloa cartel leader may be sent north. Guzman's lawyers now have 30 days to appeal against the decision.

The department said on Friday that the United States has guaranteed Guzman would not face the death penalty, which is not applied in Mexico.

Friday's ruling covered an extradition request from a Texas federal court related to charges of conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine and marijuana, money laundering, arms possession and murder, and another extradition request from a federal court in California.

In all, Guzman faces charges from seven US federal prosecutors including in Chicago, New York, Miami and San Diego.

Earlier this week, Jose Refugio Rodriguez, one of Guzman's lawyers, said that if the government approved extradition they would pursue an injunction.

"We are going to do it, but not right away, because it's a process you have to fight with arguments," he said. "We have 30 days."

Guzman was arrested in January after almost six months on the run following his escape from a maximum-security prison through a mile-long tunnel that opened to the floor of his shower.

He had already escaped once before in 2001 and spent more than a decade as one of the world's most wanted fugitives until he was recaptured in 2014.

After his latest capture, authorities returned him to the same Altiplano prison where he had pulled off his brazen tunnel escape. They said they had reinforced the prison's security.

But earlier this month, authorities suddenly transferred Guzman to a prison on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, near the US border, a move they said was due to work on improvements at Altiplano.

Mr Rodriguez is trying to get Guzman returned to Altiplano, arguing that the transfer hurt his defence because it is hundreds of miles away from the court handling the case.

He said a judge told them Guzman could be sent back to Altiplano if prison authorities determine the conditions are right.

Authorities have said Guzman can be held safely in Juarez where, like in Altiplano, he is under 24-hour surveillance through cameras in his cell and on the helmets of his guards.

Press Association

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