Accused Mexican drug lord ‘El Chapo’ faces US trial

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, center, is escorted by the Mexican police as he is extradited to the US in this January 19, 2017 picture. (Interior Ministry of Mexico/AFP)
Updated 05 November 2018
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Accused Mexican drug lord ‘El Chapo’ faces US trial

  • Joaquin Guzman formerly led the Sinaloa Cartel, named after its base in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.
  • Guzman’s lawyers have so far given few hints about their planned defense

NEW YORK: The trial of extradited Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is set to begin on Monday in federal court in Brooklyn, where he is facing drug trafficking and conspiracy charges.
Prosecutors, defense lawyers and US District Judge Brian Cogan will start by choosing jurors for what is expected to be a four-month trial. In a sign of the level of attention on the case, and the notoriety of the defendant, the jury will be kept anonymous.
Guzman, 61, formerly led the Sinaloa Cartel, named after its base in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. US authorities have described the group as one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world.
Guzman’s nickname, a reference to his five-foot, six-inch (1.67 meters) height, is often translated in English as “Shorty.”
He was extradited to the United States from Mexico on Jan. 19, 2017, after escaping twice from Mexican prisons.
A Mexican official told Reuters at the time that the move was a show of goodwill to incoming US President Donald Trump, who was inaugurated the next day, though Alberto Elias Beltran, Mexico’s assistant attorney general for international affairs, denied any connection.
US prosecutors say that as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel since 2003, Guzman directed the movement of multi-ton shipments of drugs including heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine across borders and into the United States. If convicted, Guzman faces life in prison.
According to court filings, prosecution witnesses will include former Sinaloa Cartel members and others involved in the drug trade who are now cooperating with the US government. Prosecutors have so far avoided naming the witnesses, saying that doing so would put them in danger. Some are expected to testify under aliases.
Although the charges in the case all relate to drug trafficking, prosecutors are also expected to introduce evidence that Guzman was involved in multiple murder plots in the course of his career, including in wars with rival cartels.
Guzman’s lawyers have so far given few hints about their planned defense. Eduardo Balarezo, one of the lawyers, said in a court filing that he will seek to prove that Guzman was merely a “lieutenant,” acting at the direction of others.
Mexican authorities captured Guzman and an associate in January 2016 fleeing a raid on a house where he had been staying in northwest Mexico.
A few months earlier, Guzman gave a widely publicized interview to American actor Sean Penn for Rolling Stone magazine in which he said: “I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world.”


Afghanistan starts anti-polio drive in high-risk areas

Updated 38 min 44 sec ago
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Afghanistan starts anti-polio drive in high-risk areas

  • Assurances given that vaccinators will not be targeted by militants
  • The war-torn country had 21 cases of polio last year, among the highest worldwide

KABUL: The Afghan government has launched a polio vaccination program covering 5.4 million children in high-risk areas, officials said on Tuesday.

The one-month campaign to inoculate children under 5 years old started on Monday after assurances from tribal chiefs and clerics that vaccinators will not be targeted by militants, and that families will allow their kids to get the lifetime immunization, the officials said.

The war-torn country had 21 cases of polio last year, among the highest worldwide. Among the reasons were health workers’ lack of access due to violence, and families preventing their children from being vaccinated because of the perception that it is hazardous to their health, said Waheed Mayar, chief spokesman for the Public Health Ministry.

Some vaccinators were killed by suspected militants in past years while touring villages. “This year, we’ve received assurances from villagers, tribal chiefs and clerics that they’ll make sure vaccinators are allowed (to do their work) as vaccination is essential for their children,” Mayar told Arab News.

High-risk areas include parts of western, southeast and central Afghanistan, the Public Health Ministry said.

“We will have five vaccination campaigns for the first half of 2019. We are using this time to build immunity among our people,” Public Health Minister Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz said in a statement.

“We need to work together to end polio for the world… We need to help each other, open our doors, get our children vaccinated,” he added.

“Our children are innocents and rely on us to protect them from preventable paralysis. We cannot let them down.”

Parents should plan to have their children at home and available to be vaccinated during the campaign, the ministry said.

“The polio vaccine is safe, even for sick and newborn children. It is very important these children get the vaccine because they have lower immunity, which makes them more susceptible to the virus,” the ministry added. “Polio vaccination has also been strongly endorsed by national and global Islamic scholars.”