'El Chapo' lawyers complain about New York jail conditions

Lawyers for Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman complain that he is being subjected to excessive conditions of confinement in a federal jail and that his wife was not being allowed to visit him.

Recently extradited drug lord makes appearance in Brooklyn court

Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman faces the press as he is escorted to a helicopter by soldiers and marines in Mexico City on January 2016. He was extradited to the U.S. last month. (Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press)

He's locked up 23 hours a day. His wife can't visit him. He can't call anyone, except his lawyers. He even was denied water, his lawyers say.

The strict jail conditions for notorious Mexican drug lord and escape artist Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman were outlined on Friday by defence attorneys in a failed bid to get a judge to loosen them.

Guzman smiled at his common-law wife, Emma Coronel, as he was led into the Brooklyn courtroom under heavy guard by deputy U.S. marshals at his second court appearance since being brought to the United States on Jan. 19.

"This was so far the only way she has been able to see him," defence attorney Michelle Gelernt said afterward with a silent Coronel at her side.

Twice escaped in Mexico

Guzman, 59, has pleaded not guilty to charges of running a massive drug trafficking operation that laundered billions of dollars and oversaw murders and kidnappings. He's being held at a high-security federal jail in Manhattan, with U.S. officials mindful of how he twice escaped from prison in Mexico, the second time via a mile-long tunnel dug to the shower in his cell.

Emma Coronel, left, has been denied visits with her husband, Joaquin Guzman, his lawyers said Friday. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Defence lawyers complained to U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan on Friday that the restrictions make it difficult for him to make decisions with them about how to fight the charges. They claimed his jailers are so zealous, they denied him water during a recent meeting with the defence team.

"I don't think there's any thought that if I have the guards give him a glass of water during a three-hour meeting that somehow that's going to effectuate his escape," Gelernt told reporters outside court.

'Grounds for extra security'

But Cogan, after alluding to having secret correspondence with the government about the risks of guarding Guzman, told the defence he wouldn't weigh in on the jail conditions.

"Based on what I know about this case, there are grounds for extra security measures," the judge said, with Guzman listening through a Spanish interpreter.

Guzman is due back in court on May 5.

A motorcade carrying Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman crosses the Brooklyn Bridge following his court appearance in New York City on Friday. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)