ALMOLOYA DE JUAREZ, Mexico (Reuters) - Family members, lawyers and supporters of Mexico’s Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman protested on Friday outside the maximum security prison where the drug kingpin is being held, claiming authorities were depriving him of sleep as a form of torture.
The small group included Guzman’s sister Bernarda, who said her brother was being punished for escaping from the prison in 2014.
“They are angry because he got out, but anybody, even an irrational animal, would seek their freedom. He didn’t hurt anybody,” Bernarda, who is rarely seen at public events, told reporters.
Prison authorities deny any inhumane treatment of Guzman, and said he was in good health.
As head of the Sinaloa Cartel, Guzman is accused of leading a bloody war against rival gangs. He fled the prison through a tunnel in July 2014, his second breakout from a maximum security facility. Nobody was hurt in the escape.
Family members of the drug lord have raised their public profile considerably since his re-arrest.
Guzman’s wife, Emma Coronel, has given several media interviews, and his eldest daughter said her father had sneaked into the United States to visit her while he was on the lam, The Guardian newspaper reported on Friday.
Guzman was recaptured in January and taken back to the El Altiplano prison. Through his lawyers, he has complained of being woken at night, being denied family visits and not having enough warm clothes for cold nights at the high-altitude facility.
Also outside the prison on Friday, one of Guzman’s lawyers, Juan Pablo Badillo, said he had been given access on Feb. 15 to his client, who complained about the conditions.
“‘They are turning me into a zombie,’ Chapo said, ‘because they don’t let me sleep,’” Badillo reported. The lawyer said Guzman had also claimed prison authorities tried to prescribe him Diazepam, a drug commonly used to help insomniacs.
This week, another Guzman lawyer said his client hated the prison conditions so much he was now seeking fast extradition to the United States, where he is wanted on drug trafficking charges.
A third Guzman lawyer, Juan Luis Gonzalez Meza, set up camp outside the prison on Friday and announced a “hunger strike” to demand his client receive better treatment.
Gonzalez admitted that he would drink juice and eat a plate of cereal and honey each day.
Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Leslie Adler