A US federal judge ruled Thursday (4 May) that Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman must remain in solitary confinement but may send letters to his beauty-queen wife. The ruling was a defeat for the cartel kingpin as he sought to ease the restrictions he faces at a high-security jail in Lower Manhattan.

The federal judge overseeing Guzman's case rejected nearly all of the requests he made to loosen the restrictions he is under at the Special Housing Unit of Manhattan's Metropolitan Correction Center, The New York Times reported.

Judge Brian M Cogan ruled Guzman must remain in solitary confinement, can have limited visitors and a limited ability to communicate with the outside world. Guzman is held in solitary for up to 23 hours a day and is not allowed visits with anyone other than his legal team.

Guzman's request that he be put into the general prisoner population was denied. Cogan cited Guzman's history of escaping from Mexican correctional facilities for imposing the restrictions at least until he heads to trial. "The risk attendant to placing him in the general prison population is not lost on the Court," Cogan wrote in his ruling.

According to NBC News, Guzman also requested to be allowed to call or meet with his wife, former beauty queen Emma Coronel Aispuro, to discuss who he should hire as his private attorney and how he would pay his legal bills. The judge ruled that he can instead write his wife letters, which will be screened to make sure he is not sending coded messages to run his Sinaloa cartel, plan an escape or order an attack on potential snitches.

"We're extremely disappointed," Guzman's court appointed lawyers said in a statement, according to NBC News. "This is devastating news for both of them."

Among the litany of other complaints made by Guzman are concerns over the size of the window in his cell, a ban on buying bottled water and a clock that was temporarily removed. Cogan suggested Guzman take his complaints to the Bureau of Prisons and only present them to him if the process is hindered by jail officials.

"None of these issues present constitutional concerns and the Court is not going to micro-manage the BOP," Cogan wrote.

Guzman's defence have argued that the conditions at the jail have hindered his health, causing him breathing problems and auditory hallucinations. Cogan said the restrictions were typical of solitary confinement and rejected a request for an Amnesty International visit.

Cogan did approve Guzman's request to order prison officials to stop "keeping tabs" of his meetings with his attorneys and reporting back to federal prosecutors. The notorious drug lord, who managed to escape twice in Mexico, is due in court on Friday (5 May) for a hearing.