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FILE PHOTO: 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 January 8, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo(reuters_tickers)
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Friday rejected an effort by Joaquin Guzman, the accused Mexican drug lord known as "El Chapo," to dismiss a massive international narcotics conspiracy indictment on the ground he was extradited improperly to Brooklyn.
While not challenging the merits of the case, Guzman's lawyers claimed that the indictment violated the extradition treaty between the United States and Mexico because Mexican authorities initially agreed to extradite their client only to southern California or western Texas.
The lawyers questioned how Mexico could have suddenly consented to have U.S. authorities hurry Guzman to Brooklyn in New York City to face charges other than those for which his extradition had been sought, violating the so-called Rule of Specialty.
But in a brief order, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan said Guzman had no legal right to challenge the Brooklyn indictment because Mexico had not objected to it.
Cogan also said the federal appeals court in Manhattan, whose jurisdiction includes the Brooklyn courthouse, upheld this principle in late July in an unrelated case.
"Here, there is no protest or objection by Mexico, nor is there an express provision in the extradition treaty between the United States and Mexico," Cogan wrote. "Therefore, defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment based on an alleged Rule of Specialty violation is denied."
Michelle Gelernt, a federal public defender representing Guzman, in an email said her office was "disappointed, but not surprised" with the order.
"We still believe Mr. Guzman's rights under the treaty were violated, and given that other circuit courts give the defendant the right to object to violations of extradition treaties, hope that the Supreme Court will decide this issue favorably to Mr. Guzman," she said.
Prosecutors accused Guzman, 60, of running a global cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine smuggling operation as the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, and playing a major role in a decade-long Mexican drug war where more than 100,000 people have died.
Guzman faces life in prison if convicted. He is being held without bail.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Diane Craft)