El Chapo's lawyers denounce 'cruel and unusual' prison conditions

New York (AFP) –


Lawyers for convicted Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman have denounced his prison conditions and made several requests, including more water and fresh air and earplugs to allow him to sleep.

The former Sinaloa cartel chief was found guilty on February 12 of smuggling tons of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States. He is scheduled to be sentenced in June and faces the prospect of life in prison.

The 62-year-old Guzman is currently being held in solitary confinement in a high-security prison in Lower Manhattan in conditions which his lawyers claimed violate the constitutional ban on "cruel and unusual punishment."

"Mr. Guzman is confined to a small, windowless cell, of approximately 10 x 8 feet," they said in a letter to US District Court Judge Brian Cogan.

"Mr. Guzman is permitted a single hour of solitary exercise from Monday through Friday in another indoor cell that contains one stationary bicycle," they said. "On the weekends, he is not permitted any exercise.

"Mr. Guzman has been over two years now without any access to fresh air or natural sunlight," the letter said. "Furthermore, the light in his cell is always on, leading to serious issues of sleep deprivation."

His lawyers asked that Guzman be allowed to have at least two hours of outdoor recreation a week, six water bottles a week and earplugs "in order to alleviate his ear pain, and to assist his ability to sleep."

"Mr. Guzman has been using toilet paper as makeshift earplugs," his lawyers said, and the air conditioner system in his cell "is so loud, that he is unable to sleep through the night."

Guzman's lawyers said his behavior during his 27 months in custody has been "exemplary" and he has "never been disrespectful, disruptive, or violent" towards prison staff at the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

"Yet, his detention is far more onerous than that of detainees being punished for acts of violence within the prison," they said. "These conditions are excessively punitive."