Jury selection begins for 'El Chapo' trial; safety fears muted

Jury selection begins for 'El Chapo' trial; safety fears muted

Jury selection began Monday for the trial of the drug kingpin known as "El Chapo".

Prosecutors spent years piecing together a case against Guzman, who was extradited last year after twice escaping prison in Mexico - first hidden in a laundry cart, then slipping down a tunnel that reached his prison shower.

The judge ruled that just five news reporters, a fraction of the swarm of media representatives following the trial, will be allowed in the courtroom during jury selection.

Guzman faces 11 trafficking, firearms and money laundering charges.

Guzman, 61, has been in solitary confinement since being extradited to the United States from Mexico in January 2017.

The Sinaloa cartel Guzman founded in 1989 is still hugely powerful.

They will also be escorted in and out of the court by guards.

United States prosecutors say that as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, Guzman directed the worldwide trafficking of multi-ton shipments of drugs, including heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine. Prosecutors have also sought to hide the identity of co-operating witnesses out of concerns the cartel could seek retribution, while a judge is keeping the jury anonymous to protect them from intimidation.

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Recaptured drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by soldiers at the hangar belonging to the office of the Attorney General in Mexico City, Mexico on January 8, 2016. Another was sent home after she said she couldn't be impartial, saying, "I feel very bad about drugs".

Prosecutors describe Guzman as one of the most risky and feared drug kingpins, who between 1989 and 2014 ran the world's largest drug trafficking organization. According to court papers, some are being held in special jail units for their protection, while others are in witness protection programs.

"'El Chapo Guzman is the world's #1 drug criminal", DEA spokesperson Rusty Payne told Forbes after his apprehension in 2014.

In his way now is a lineup of government witnesses who survived the wave of violence and are expected to give details about the ruthless way he kept power for 20 years in the cutthroat world of global drug trafficking. In the United States, opioid addiction has spiraled into an epidemic.

The only visitors he is allowed are his lawyers and twin, seven-year-old daughters, from whom he is separated by thick glass.

Mexican druglord "El Chapo" Guzman is on the run from police after making a daring escape from Mexico's most secure prison. Re-arrested by Mexican marines in February 2014, he escaped again 14 months later.

In a secret meeting with actor Sean Penn which the Hollywood star wrote about in Rolling Stone magazine in 2016, Guzman boasted: "I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world". This time, Mexico made a decision to wash their hands and put him on a plane.

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