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Denial of Fair Public Trial
The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respected this provision in practice.
The court system includes local courts, 35 regional courts of appeal, and the highest criminal court, the Court of Cassation, which considers appeals on procedural grounds only. Prospective magistrates compete for entry into the National School for Judges; upon completion of their course of study and rigorous exams, magistrates are placed according to their class ranking.
Observers have criticized the judicial system for its inability to process suspects quickly (see Section 1.d.). In cases of serious crimes, investigating judges detain suspects for questioning and direct the criminal investigation that occurs before a case is tried. The chambre d'accusation reviews the investigating judge's investigation to determine whether the charge established by the investigating judge was appropriate. The Court of Assises investigates and decides cases involving serious criminal offenses.
In October 2002, without further consultation with the Government, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) dismissed Abdelhamid Hakkar's suit charging that the Government violated Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights by keeping him in provisional detention for 5 years. In February, Hakkar was convicted of the murder of a police officer in 1984 and sentenced to life in prison with possibility of parole in 18 years.
There were no reports of political prisoners.
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