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Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is returning to a Brooklyn courtroom Friday, a day after a judge rejected his request to be allowed in the general inmate population.

District Judge Brian Cogan ruled solitary confinement is appropriate for the 59-year-old drug lord until the day of his trial, but he agreed to relax the restrictions concerning the communication with his wife. Guzman, 59, will now be allowed to send her letters that will be scrutinized in search of any possible code or hidden directives to the Sinaloa cartel.

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“We’re extremely disappointed that Mr. Guzman and his wife will not be able to see or speak to each other,” Michelle Gelernt, one of Guzman’s lawyers, said in an email. “This is devastating news for both of them.”

Cogan said the U.S. government had good justifications for applying tough jail conditions on a man who escaped twice, including once through a mile-long tunnel stretching from the shower in his cell.

Guzman is restricted to his cell for 23 hours a day, with the lights on at all times, and has not been allowed any visitors other than lawyers.

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He has one hour of exercise in a small cage with no fresh air or sunlight, according to a March letter to prosecutors from Amnesty International.

The human rights group had asked to inspect Guzman’s cell, but Cogan on Thursday denied that request.

Guzman’s lawyers also sought more freedom to communicate with people in order to plan his defense, including his wife and potential witnesses.

Cogan ruled that Guzman may not communicate with witnesses, citing his “alleged history of witness intimidation.”

Guzman was brought to the U.S. in January to face charges that he oversaw a multi-billion dollar international drug trafficking operation responsible for murders and kidnappings. He has pleaded not guilty.

AP and Reuters contributed to this report.



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