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Mexican judge backs US extradition of drug lord 'El Chapo' Guzman

A Mexican judge has rejected a set of appeals against extradition to the US from drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. The cartel boss, who faces charges including murder north of the border, still has room for appeal.

The attorney general's office said on Thursday that the Mexico City court, which had been reviewing the case since September 26, "decided to reject the protection" sought by Guzman.

The Foreign Ministry had approved Guzman's extradition in May, but his lawyers went to a the Thirteenth District Appeal Court in Criminal Matters to fight the decision.

The judge denied two of Guzman's appeals and dismissed the other three.

One of the lawyers for Guzman, Andres Granados, said he would pick up court documents on Tuesday, after which he would have 10 business days to appeal to a "college" of judges. He also said he would seek a hearing at Mexico's Supreme Court.

"We are not defeated," Granados told the AFP news agency, adding that the case could still go to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Guzman, whose Spanish nickname means "Shorty," faces two extradition bids - one in California for drug distribution and another in Texas on charges that include murder and money laundering. However, there are a total of six cases against him across the United States.

Twice escaped from prison

The drug lord previously faced extradition to the US in 2001, but he escaped by bribing guards and spent 13 years on the run. He was recaptured in 2014, but broke out again a year later from a maximum-security prison near Mexico City through a 1.5 kilometer (about a mile) tunnel leading to his cell. The escape caused huge embarrassment for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Watch video 01:33

Mexico fugitive drug lord recaptured

The elusive Guzman was recaptured in January in his northwestern home state of Sinaloa, after a bloody shoutout in the coastal town of Los Mochis. He is currently imprisoned in the northern border state of Chihuahua, near to the US border.

Mexico's National Security Commissioner Renato Sales said last week that Guzman could be extradited early next year.

Guzman's defense team is employing a two-track strategy for his defense - blocking extradition and also exploring possible cooperation with US prosecutors.

The Mexican government gave the go-ahead for the extradition after US officials promised Guzman would not face the death penalty, a punishment that is outlawed in Mexico.

rc/jr (AP, AFP, EFE)

 

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