Judge in Mexico seeks 'El Chapo' extraditon to US

Hours before Mexican authorities transferred drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to a prison in Ciudad Juarez, a federal judge ruled he should be extradited to the United States, Guzman’s lawyer said Sunday.

The request would now have to be approved by the Mexican Foreign Ministry, with Guzman in the northern city’s prison near the US border.  Guzman is accused of crimes including smuggling tons of drugs into the United States by boat, submarine, airplane and an extensive network of tunnels under the border.

A number of US jurisdictions, including New York, are vying to prosecute him.

The Third District Court for Criminal Trials ruled that “extradition should move forward,” Jose Refugio Rodríguez, attorney for the drug capo, told AFP.

The Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

If the judge has in fact approved extraditing Guzman, the ministry would have 30 days to take action.

The former leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel — one of Mexico’s most powerful — Guzman staged a spectacular jailbreak in July 2015, when he escaped through a hole in his jail cell’s shower that led to a 1.5-kilometer (one-mile) tunnel leading outside.

He was captured in January after months on the run.

Just before his arrest Guzman met in a jungle hideout with the US film star Sean Penn and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo to grant Penn an interview. Penn wrote about it in “Rolling Stone.” In 2001, Guzman is believed to have hidden in a laundry basket when he escaped from another maximum security prison in Puente Grande in western Jalisco state, where he was imprisoned since 1993.

The authorities began the process of deporting him to the United States shortly after his capture in January.

President Enrique Pena Nieto has said the extradition would take place “as soon as possible.” Guzman fought the process until March, when he asked his lawyers to stop their efforts because conditions at his prison were intolerable.

He is willing to plead guilty to charges in the United States in return for a lighter sentence and confinement at a medium-security prison, his lawyer has said.

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