The court system remains substantially similar to that which existed in the Soviet era. There are 61 district and city courts, 6 provincial courts (including one for the capital city of Ashkhabad), and a Supreme Court. A supreme economic court hears cases involving disputes between business enterprises and ministries. Military courts were abolished in 1997 and cases involving the armed forces are now tried in civilian courts. Decisions of lower courts are appealable to higher courts.
The constitution declares the establishment of an independent judiciary. In practice, the president's role in selecting and dismissing judges compromises judicial independence. The president appoints all judges for a term of five years, without legislative review, except for the chairman of the Supreme Court.
Defendants in criminal cases are afforded a number of procedural due process rights, including the right to a public trial and the right to defense counsel. In practice, the government often denies these rights. There are few private lawyers. Defendants may petition the president for clemency. He has traditionally released large numbers of prisoners in periodically declared amnesties, though some political prisoners have appeared exempt from the amnesties.