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El Chapo to receive psych evaluation while awaiting trial

A US judge has authorized a psychological examination for Joaquin Guzman. Lawyers say El Chapo's mental state is deteriorating in the New York jail where he awaits trial on charges of trafficking from Mexico to the US.

A federal judge will permit a psychologist to examine the infamous drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman at the New York City jail where he awaits trial on 17 charges related to trafficking. Though he will allow the examination, Judge Brian Cogan said that, like Chapo's lawyers, the psychologist could only assess Guzman through security glass.

"His memory is failing," Guzman's lawyer Eduardo Balarezo told reporters after Wednesday's court hearing. "I don't want it to get to the point where he's not competent or able to assist the defense in preparation for trial," he added.

Guzman, who twice escaped from prison in his native Mexico, stands accused of running the Sinaloa cartel — one of the world's biggest drug empires. The 60-year-old has sat in solitary confinement since his arrival at the facility, which has held some of the US's top terrorism suspects, on January 19.

Chapo has pleaded not guilty to firearms, drug trafficking and conspiracy charges. Guzman could face trial as early as April. If convicted, he would likely to spend the rest of his life in a maximum security prison in the United States.

US officials seek to prevent Guzman from staging any possible escape. In Mexico, he had gained notoriety by twice escaping from prison — the second time in 2015 via a mile-long tunnel dug from the shower in his cell.

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'El Chapo' extradited to the United States

'A marked deterioration'

Lawyers have repeatedly reported poor conditions during Guzman's pretrial detention at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. On Tuesday, Balarezo told the AFP news agency that his client suffers from hallucinations and constant headaches, feels persecuted and depressed, and has difficulty remembering people, places and events. Balarezo said isolation had caused "a marked deterioration in his mental state."

Court papers from the defense claim that officials allow Guzman outside his cell for only one hour per day and have permitted him just a single visit with his daughters. Guzman's lawyers say their client has no fresh air in his "frigid" cell, no soap to wash himself with and only dirty sheets to sleep on. "It is plain to the defense team that something is not right with Mr. Guzman," the papers read.

"If the psychologist evaluates him and then determines that there are competency issues, then we'll deal with that," Balarezo told reporters on Wednesday.

mkg/rc (EFE, AFP, dpa, AP)

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