MEXICO

The defense of Joaquin Guzman Loera, alias “El Chapo”, accused by the Mexican and US authorities of leading the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, prepares a legal appeal to be presented to the Mexican authorities, in order that Guzman be returned and judged on Mexican soil for the criminal proceedings against him in his homeland.

Jose Refugio, one of Guzman Loera’s lawyers confirmed the decision in an interview with Anadolu Agency. The lawyer insisted that the due process was violated since Guzman’s recapture in January 2016 at Los Mochis locality in Sinaloa, Mexico, then, after his extradition to the United States in January 2017.

“I am analyzing and raising the possibility that the United States may return [Guzman] to Mexico so that he can be tried at his homeland for the pending criminal proceedings,” said Refugio. The attorney added that Guzman Loera’s defense will present the legal recourse in Mexico before Feb. 15.

This recapture that took place five years ago occurred after Guzman Loera escaped on July 11, 2015, when he fled from the maximum-security prison Centro Federal de Readaptacion Social 1, better known as the Altiplano, located in the State of Mexico, two hours from Mexico City.

His escape was a Hollywood-style process, through a 1.5-kilometer tunnel and using a motorcycle like vehicle.

Guzman’s fame for “constructing” tunnels was earned decades ago when the drug lord was a lieutenant for the cartels on the border between Tijuana and the US, and the drug flowed like underwater streams. In fact, he had already starred in a 2001 escape from the Puente Grande, Jalisco prison, where other famous drug traffickers are serving sentences.

Refugio said that when “El Chapo” was recaptured, he was transferred to the Altiplano prison, but the prison authorities did not let him speak to Guzman Loera until three days later.

He also claimed that after leaving the prison he was detained in the proximity of the jail by a Federal Police command, after a failed arrest warrant, that according to Refugio, the federal agents captured the wrong person. Refugio identified himself with a professional license and was sent free.

According to the defender, in those days two extradition requests arrived from the state courts of California and Texas, for which the defense prepared the necessary legal resources.

During these months, he said, his client was subjected to torture and kept all the time awake. “Joaquin complained that he was not allowed to sleep in the prison,” Guzman’s lawyer said.

“We went for legal requests to protect Joaquin Guzman and all legal procedures were denied. We filed the request before the Supreme Court for the ‘attraction faculty’ [that is, for the Court to decide on this case] and they rejected the possibility. This happened a day before they extradited Joaquin,” Refugio said.

“When the appeals were rejected [by the Court], the next day, the court sends to another court the approval of extradition, then to the Foreign Relations Secretary; Foreign Relations send it to the US Embassy and that same day they were already executing the order. Authorities took him to Ciudad Juarez Airport and from there to the United States”.

According to Refugio, all this procedure has a legal time of 10 days.

For the defense attorney, it was a “surprise” that through this operation to extradite Guzman Loera, he was not sent to any of the US states where the courts required him, rather, sent him to New York for different criminal charges than those requested in his extradition paper.

“For us in that moment was a violation of the due process, because he did not have the possibility to defend himself from that extradition request, even with the legal appeal that we promoted against Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretary,” said Refugio.

Then in the US, a trial against “El Chapo” began in the Brooklyn Court that resulted in a life sentence plus 30 years in prison, read to him by Judge Brian Cogan on July 17, 2019. He was found guilty of 10 counts of drug trafficking. Regarding the current legal status of “El Chapo” in the US, the lawyer Refugio said that he cannot give any opinion.

Among some important trials that take place in that same US court, is the hearing of former Mexican Secretary of Security, Genaro Garcia Luna, known for being the trusted man of former Mexican President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa (2006-2012) and even of US security agencies such as the DEA.

He was arrested in the US in December 2019 – according to the US Department of Justice – for acts of corruption and ties to the Sinaloa Cartel.

The request for an arrest warrant was prompted by Judge Cogan himself and is currently undergoing a process. Maybe Guzman could be appearing as a potential witness against the former Mexican high official.

*Juan Velez contributed to the story

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