Round one, 'El Chapo': drug lord to get day in US court

After sentencing, Guzman is likely to be transferred to a so-called "supermax" prison in Colorado (AFP Photo/HO) (INTERIOR MINISTRY OF MEXICO/AFP/File)

New York (AFP) - Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, one of the world's most notorious criminals, will appear in person and not by video link at his next US court hearing, a judge agreed Wednesday.

It was a swift, if small, victory for public defenders representing the 59-year-old two-time Mexican prison escapee whom US authorities insist will not be able to tunnel himself to freedom in America.

Judge Brian Cogan initially agreed with prosecutors that Guzman should appear by video link at a procedural hearing on Friday to "minimize disruption from physical transportation."

But he left the door open for the defense to object -- and object they did.

In a five-page letter, they said Guzman wants to "be physically present" on Friday and at future hearings.

"His absence from the courtroom would necessarily lead to the public impression that Mr Guzman is too dangerous to be brought to the courtroom," they advised.

On Wednesday, Cogan ruled that the defendant will attend Friday's conference in person at the US federal court in Brooklyn.

Guzman, accused of running one of the world's biggest drug empires, was extradited to the United States on January 19 and appeared without handcuffs and without incident to plead not guilty to a raft of firearms, drug trafficking and conspiracy charges during a brief hearing on January 20.

Since then, he has been held in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, unable to make telephone calls or communicate directly with his family or lawyers in Mexico, his lawyers said.

If found guilty at trial, he stands to spend the rest of his life in a maximum security US prison.