The Court System
The legal system of Azerbaijan has changed little from the system of the Soviet period. The national Supreme Court serves as a court of appeals; below it are two levels of judicial jurisdiction, the district and municipal courts. These courts, supposedly independent, are not immune to political manipulation, as evidenced by Aliyev's ouster of the chief justice of the Supreme Court in July 1993 because of the judge's support for Elchibey and the APF.
Trials are generally public, and defendants have the right to choose their own attorney, be present at their own trials, confront witnesses, present evidence, and appeal the verdict. In cases involving national security or sex offenses, a judge may decide to hold a closed trial. Despite the other stipulated rights of the defendant, the presumption of innocence has not been incorporated specifically into the criminal code. Thus the decision of the state prosecutor to bring a case to trial has considerable bearing on the final verdict.
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