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Azerbaijan: Court Excludes Opposition Leader From Presidential Elections

Baku, 14 July 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Azerbaijan's Supreme Court today upheld the exclusion of an opposition leader from the country's upcoming presidential election. The court rejected an appeal by the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan to have its leader, Rasul Guliev, allowed to compete in the 15 October election.

Guliev is a former speaker of the Azerbaijani parliament, who is charged with stealing state property. He lives in the United States to evade the charges, which he says are politically motivated.

Peter Burkhardt, head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) office in Azerbaijan, today expressed concern over the ruling. He said such decisions should be made by the public rather than by governmental procedures.

President Heidar Aliev, who is 80 years old and has a history of heart trouble, has been nominated to run for a third term, despite widespread concerns about his health.