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.”


Duterte foes cry foul as Philippine police push sedition charges

Updated 10 min 56 sec ago
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Duterte foes cry foul as Philippine police push sedition charges

  • Thirty-six opposition figures are accused of cyber libel and sedition
  • A series of online videos ahead of May’s mid-term elections alleged that Duterte and his family members were involved in the illegal drugs trade

MANILA: Opponents of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte expressed shock and outrage on Friday at police moves to charge dozens of them with sedition, calling it persecution aimed at stamping out scrutiny of his increasingly powerful rule.
Thirty-six opposition figures are accused of cyber libel and sedition for orchestrating a series of online videos ahead of May’s mid-term elections. The videos feature a hooded man alleging that Duterte and his family members were involved in the illegal drugs trade, which they deny.
The man, who had said he was a witness, later surrendered and appeared with police on television to say his claims were false and that he was cajoled into making the videos by opposition members. They included the vice president, lawyers, Catholic priests, a former attorney general, and incumbent and former lawmakers, the man said.
The justice department is looking into the complaint, which is the latest move against Duterte’s detractors who say the aim is to create a power monopoly for a president who already enjoys a legislative super-majority and a public approval rating of about 80 percent.
Duterte insists he is open to challenges but has shown no qualms about threatening high-profile critics, several of whom he said last month he would jail if they tried to impeach him.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte had no involvement in the police sedition complaint.
“We have nothing to do with this case, not at all, absolutely nothing,” he told news channel ANC. “Let the judicial process do its work.”
Antonio Trillanes, a former senator and Duterte’s strongest critic, described the complaint as “political persecution and harassment” intended to stifle democratic dissent.
A spokesman for Vice President Leni Robredo, who was not Duterte’s running mate and was elected separately, called the complaint “completely baseless.” Her party ally Senator Francis Pangilinan said it was part of a series of moves toward removing her from office.
Leila de Lima, an anti-Duterte senator detained on drugs charges, said it was “hogwash, pure hogwash,” and Samira Gutoc, a candidate in recent Senate elections, urged the police not to become partisan.
“I really am baffled,” Gutoc said of being accused of involvement.