MEXICO CITY – A second Mexican judge has ruled that the extradition of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to the United States can go forward, judicial authorities announced Monday.
The process still awaits approval of Mexico’s foreign ministry and it can be appealed.
The judge’s decision was on an extradition request from a federal court in Texas. Last week, another judge made the same determination on a separate extradition request from a federal court in California.
The second decision starts another 20-day period during which the foreign affairs ministry can decide to allow the extradition. If it approves the extradition, Guzman’s lawyers would have 30 days to appeal, making it possible that the extradition of the leader of the Sinaloa cartel could still be months away.
The courts said Monday that the second case is related to charges for conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine and marijuana, money laundering, arms possession and murder.
Guzman faces charges from seven federal prosecutors in the U.S., including Chicago, New York, Miami and San Diego.
Jose Refugio Rodriguez, one of Guzman’s lawyers, said Monday that their team was notified of the latest judge’s decision on Friday and now awaits the foreign ministry’s decision.
He said if the government approves extradition they will 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 of the brazen tunnel escape. They said they had reinforced the prison’s security.
But earlier this month, Guzman was suddenly transferred to a prison in Juarez near the U.S. border in what the government said had to do with new efforts to improve security at Altiplano.
Rodriguez, Guzman’s lawyer, is working for his transfer back to Altiplano, arguing that the transfer hurt his defense because the judge handling the case is near Altiplano and hundreds of miles from Juarez.
He said a judge told them Guzman could be returned to Altiplano if prison authorities determine the conditions are right. They were waiting to hear from the government.
Earlier Monday, Rodriguez said in a radio interview that Guzman’s wife, Emma Coronel visited Guzman in the Juarez prison recently.
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.
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