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Judge rules 'El Chapo' extradition to US can go ahead

Drug king Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is one step closer to being transfered to the US. He faces charges from money laundering to drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder in cities that include Chicago, Miami and New York.

Mexico's Judicial Council - which oversees the country's federal judges and tribunals - said Monday that the judge, whom it did not name, had agreed that the legal requirements laid out in the extradition treaty between the two countries had been met.

Mexico's foreign ministry must still approve the extradition and the defense can appeal. The ministry has 20 days to decide whether to approve Guzman's extradition to the US and any extradition attempts can be delayed or stopped by a request to the court by attorneys.

Speculation abounds after transfer

Guzman was moved

Saturday from a prison outside Mexico City to a to a less-secure prison in Ciudad Juarez across the border from El Paso, Texas, and in a region that is one of his cartel's strongholds.

Mexican media had been speculating whether the move is a prelude to extradition to the US, where he faces drug charges in seven jurisdictions. President Enrique Pena Nieto's spokesman, Eduardo Sanchez, has denied that the transfer had anything to do with Guzman's possible extradition to the United States. Meanwhile, a US government official told AFP that Guzman's extradition was not imminent.

"It's a prison that today fulfills all the necessary characteristics to hold high-profile inmates," Eduardo Guerrero, head of the national penitentiary system, told Radio Formula, adding that the facility has four "high-security" units. "Chapo will not escape," Guerrero told the Televisa network.

Not an easy man to contain

The 58-year-old El Chapo first broke out of another prison in 2001 and spent more than a decade on the run, before being recaptured in 2014 and slipping out of Altiplano in July 2015 along a sophisticated, 1.5-km (1 mile)-long tunnel that went up into the shower in his cell.

Watch video 01:33

Mexico fugitive drug lord recaptured 09.01.2016

He was rearrested by Mexican marines in the western state of Sinaloa in January, after fleeing a safe house through a storm drain.

Juan Pablo Badillo, one of Guzman's lawyers, said his client's legal situation was still being processed and that to extradite him now would be a violation of his human rights, adding that there are nine appeals pending against Guzman's extradition.

jbh/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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