Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman will be tried in U.S. in April 2018

The Mexican drug lord known as "El Chapo" returns to a Brooklyn courtroom today after a judge one day earlier rejected efforts to loosen the tough terms of his confinement in a Manhattan jail.

The 60-year-old, accused of running one of the world's biggest drug empires and who escaped twice from prison in Mexico, has been held in solitary confinement in NY since being extradited on January 19.

During his last hearing, Guzman's lawyers asked for him to be released from the ultra-high security wing that houses terrorists.

The 27-year-old mother of his twin daughters sat in the gallery, dressed head to toe in white.

The 18-page ruling follows complaints from Guzman's lawyers about the conditions of his pre-trial detention.

On Thursday, Cogan relaxed slightly just a few of the stringent conditions in which Guzman is held in custody, allowing him to exchange, pre-screened written messages with his wife but denying him family visits and phone calls.

But Cogan refused a request for amnesty worldwide to visit on the grounds that there was "absolutely no reason".

He is charged with running the Sinaloa Cartel, a murderously violent cocaine smuggling enterprise, and he twice escaped from prisons in Mexico.

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"The court would be hard pressed", he wrote "not to acknowledge" that Guzman's second jail break in Mexico "was accomplished under 24-hour video surveillance in solitary confinement".

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan in Brooklyn federal court acknowledged at a hearing Friday that the date was "somewhat aspirational" and could be delayed, given the complexity of the case and the amount of evidence that lawyers must review ahead of trial. His wife is also expected to attend.

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.

The judge ordered U.S. prosecutors to "cease any communications with MCC staff" in which prison employees report back on the content of those meetings.

His ruling also addressed a list of gripes from the defense about Guzman's treatment at the MCC - the size of the window on his cell, the fact that the exercise bike doesn't face the TV in the recreation room, a bar on purchasing bottled water, a clock temporarily taken away.

In March, the defense complained Guzman's health was deteriorating in custody, and claimed that he experienced "auditory hallucinations" and heard unexplained music.

Guzman, who sold oranges as a child before turning to the drug trade in the 1970s, was extradited from Mexico to the United States to face drug trafficking charges there on January 19.

  • Alfonso Moody