US allows ‘El Chapo’ to write to wife from behind bars

Soldiers escort Damaso Lopez, a senior lieutenant of Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman, after arresting him in Mexico City recently. (AFP)
Updated 05 May 2017

US allows ‘El Chapo’ to write to wife from behind bars

NEW YORK: A US judge has relaxed slightly the stringent custody conditions of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, allowing him to correspond with his beauty queen wife.
The 60-year-old kingpin, accused of running one of the world’s biggest drug empires, has been held in solitary confinement since being extradited to New York on January 19.
Federal Judge Brian Cogan ruled that Guzman, one of the world’s most notorious criminals, could send written messages to his wife — provided they were pre-screened by federal agencies — but denied him family visits and phone calls.
Guzman’s wife Emma Coronel, 27, is the mother of his twins.
The 18-page ruling similarly allowed his defense team’s pre-cleared investigator to visit without an attorney present, following complaints from Guzman’s lawyers about the conditions of his pre-trial detention.
But Cogan refused a request for Amnesty International to visit on the grounds that there was “absolutely no reason.”
The London-based rights groups in March asked to speak with Guzman, expressing concern that the conditions of his detention “appear to be unnecessarily harsh and to breach international standards for human treatment.”
Cogan also flatly denied a request by Guzman — who twice escaped from prisons in Mexico — to have his “special administrative measures” lifted in full or for him to be moved out of solitary confinement.
“The conditions are reasonably necessary to ensure that defendant cannot coordinate any escape from prison, direct any violence against cooperators, or manage any aspect of the Sinaloa Cartel’s enterprise,” he wrote.
He went on to write that Guzman’s second jail break in Mexico “was accomplished under 24-hour video surveillance in solitary confinement.”
The decision came one day before Guzman is due to appear in court for another pre-trial hearing. His wife is also expected to attend.
His lawyer Michelle Gelernt welcomed permission for her client to swap letters with his wife as “small comfort” but said it was “devastating news for both of them” to be denied visits and calls.
“We continue to believe that the conditions of Mr. Guzman’s detention, including being held in solitary confinement, are untenable,” she said in a statement.
“We will continue to fight for his right to fair and humane treatment.”
Cogan has denied Guzman visits from anyone other than his lawyers or permission to communicate with potential witnesses.
Cogan’s ruling revealed that Guzman is visited by his lawyers almost every day at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, for an average of four to five hours in a windowed visitor room.
The judge ordered US prosecutors to “cease any communications with MCC staff,” in which prison employees report back on the content of those meetings.
In March, the defense complained Guzman’s health was deteriorating in custody, and claimed that he experienced “auditory hallucinations.”
Guzman pleaded not guilty to firearms, drug trafficking and conspiracy charges. If convicted, he is likely to spend the rest of his life in a maximum security US prison.

Singapore celebrates Ramadan with bazaars and biryani

Updated 23 May 2019

Singapore celebrates Ramadan with bazaars and biryani

  • The vibrant Kampong Glam neighborhood comes alive during the holy month
  • Sultan Mosque was designated a national monument in 1975

KUALA LUMPUR: Singapore’s Sultan Mosque is a focal point for Muslims in the cosmopolitan city-state and the vibrant Kampong Glam neighborhood comes alive during the holy month of Ramadan when people from all walks of life flock to its bustling bazaars.

Kampong Glam is Singapore’s “Muslim Quarter” with a mix of Malay, South Asian and Middle Eastern elements. Around 14 percent of Singapore’s 5.6 million population is Muslim, according to the latest official data.

Arab Street — an area that includes Bussorah Street, Haji and Bali Lanes and Muscat Street — is a hub for hipsters, vivid murals, Persian rug stores, shisha bars, perfumeries and textile shops, as well as being home to the distinctive golden domes of the Sultan Mosque. There is even an ornate archway welcoming people to explore the neighborhood and its distinctive shophouses, buildings that were used for working and living in. 

“We are more like brothers and sisters, rather than businesses. I know most of the customers and they know me too,” a 36-year-old biryani hawker who gave his name as Nareza told Arab News as he served a line of hungry clients.

Nareza said his stall’s signature dish was mutton biryani, made from a family recipe handed down through generations from his late grandmother. 


Around 14 percent of Singapore’s 5.6 million population is Muslim

“Dum biryani is a process of mixing meat and rice together in one pot, so the rice has a bit of the masala taste while the meat has a bit of the basmati rice fragrance,” he said, adding that he sold more than 300 portions of biryani a day. “I learned to make biryani from my father, who used to do charity work in the mosque. We make our own spices, we do not buy them from outside vendors. That is why the taste is different.”

The bazaar is packed with places selling food, drinks, decorations and homeware. The fare reflects Singapore’s international status, with eateries and stores selling kebabs, sushi and local Malay goodies.

But Singapore has a reputation for being one of the most expensive cities in the world and having a fast-paced lifestyle, leading some to focus on preserving culture and heritage for future generations.

“We want to create awareness about the significance of Sultan Mosque to the Muslim community,” juice stall owner Riduan told Arab News, saying all sale proceeds were donated to the Sultan Mosque. “Arab Street is unique because you see a lot of different races coming here and it is also a tourist attraction. This is where we demonstrate we are Singapore society. Singapore is not just limited to skyscrapers such as Marina Bay Sands.”