Sentence due on wife of former city boss Bo Xilai
SENTENCING in the murder trial of Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced Communist Party boss Bo Xilai, is expected to be delivered on Monday.
According to state media, she has admitted killing the British businessman Neil Heywood, 41, following a dispute over money, fearing that he was a threat to the safety of her son, Bo Guagua, 24, an Oxford University graduate who attended Harrow. An aide to her family has been accused of being an accessory.
A guilty verdict is a foregone conclusion, with only the sentence not known. It could range up to life in jail, but experts do not expect the death penalty to be applied in this case.
An official with the information office of the Hefei Intermediate People’s Court where last week’s trial of Gu and the aide, Zhang Xiaojun, was held said the sentence would be announced on Monday morning. The staffer refused to give her name, as is customary for many Chinese officials.
Asked if reporters could apply to attend the hearing, she said it would be open to the public but that all seats in the courtroom had “already been taken up”. A similar tactic for the trial effectively prevented the foreign media from observing the proceedings, though British diplomats were permitted to attend.
Gu’s arrest and the ousting of her husband, the boss of the southwestern city of Chongqing until March, sparked the biggest political turbulence in China since the bloody military crackdown on democracy protesters on Tiananmen Square in 1989.
In a lengthy account of the case, the official Xinhua News Agency has depicted Gu as a depressed woman on medication who turned wilful murderer after Heywood threatened her son. Gu, 53, is accused of luring Mr Heywood to a hotel in Chongqing, getting him drunk then pouring cyanide into his mouth.
The charge claims that Gu and her co-defendant “confessed to intentional homicide” and appeared repentant in court during a seven-hour trial on 9 August.
While the Beijing government has sought to portray the case as an open-and-shut criminal proceeding unrelated to high-level political wrangling, its official statements about it have failed to clarify glaring omissions in the prosecution.
Legal and political scholars say much of the narrative that has so far been presented leaves major questions unanswered, not least of which is whether, or to what extent, Bo Xilai was involved in the crime allegedly committed by his wife in the city that he ruled with a firm grip and even ran a high-profile crackdown on mafia gangs. Bo’s name has been conspicuously left out of official accounts of the case.
The case only came to light in February when former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun suddenly fled to a US consulate and told American diplomats about his suspicions that Heywood had been murdered and that Bo’s family was involved.
Bo was one of China’s most powerful and charismatic politicians until he was removed as Communist Party chief of Chongqing city as the scandal surrounding Mr Heywood’s death last November unfolded.
The scandal has shaken the leadership which is preparing for a hand over of power from party chiefs to a new generation, a once in a decade event.
Gu’s tightly orchestrated trial is a step toward resolving the political turbulence before the leadership transition this autumn, and officials want to prevent the case from further sullying the party’s reputation.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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