The verdict in the trial of Gu Kailai, wife of disgraced senior Chinese Communist Party leader Bo Xilai, over her alleged involvement in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood is set to be announced on Monday, media reports citing Chinese court officials said on Friday.
Gu's trial was held in the eastern Chinese city of Hefei in Anhui province on August 9, even though Heywood was found murdered hundreds of miles to the west in the city of Chongqing. The trial lasted only a day as she did not contest the charges.
Late last month, the Hefei Municipal Procuratorate (state prosecutor's office) charged Gu and Zhang Xiaojun, a family aide, with "intentional homicide" over the Briton's death. State-run Xinhua news agency had reported then that "the facts of the two defendants' crime are clear, and the evidence is irrefutable and substantial."
Heywood was found dead in a Chongqing hotel in November 2011, when Bo was at the helm of the ruling Communist party in the city. Although initial police reports suggested that he died of excessive drinking, a re-investigation confirmed he was poisoned.
Subsequently, Gu and Xiaojun were named suspects in Heywood's murder. Investigators had earlier suggested that his killing was prompted by a dispute with Gu and her son over unspecified "economic interests."
During the brief trial, prosecutors told the court that Gu had been involved in a business dispute with Heywood, and claimed that she decided to murder the Briton as she believed he "threatened the personal safety of her son."
"After Heywood became intoxicated, vomited and asked for water, she poured poison into his mouth that had been prepared beforehand and that she had given to Zhang Xiaojun to bring along, causing Heywood's death," court official Tang Yigan said after the hearing, adding that both Gu and Zhang "did not raise objections to the facts and the charges."
Both the defendants face a possible death sentence if found guilty of the charges. Nevertheless, Chinese state media have already suggested that they may get lesser punishment as Gu had acted to protect her son.
Incidentally, the scandal over Heywood's death led to Bo's downfall in Chinese politics. He was earlier expected to be elected to the nine-member Standing Committee of the CPC Politburo, the innermost core of power, when the party adopts a once-in-a-decade leadership change at the Party Congress by the year-end.
But in May, Bo was expelled from the Communist Party of China (CPC) and stripped him of all his remaining leadership positions. The party said then that Bo was "suspected of being involved in serious disciplinary violations." Although Bo has not been mentioned in the case against his wife, his future remains unclear.
The scandal surfaced after Bo's former police chief Wang Lijun suddenly appeared at the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu in early February, and sought political asylum. But Chinese security forces took Wang to Beijing after he came out the Consulate the following morning. Wang is said to have told U.S. diplomats during his brief stay at the Consulate that Gu had poisoned Heywood. It is believed that his accusations prompted the re-investigation into Heywood's death.
Bo and Wang were close for a decade, and it was Bo who brought the latter to Chongqing in 2008 to crush the city's mafia. The pair reportedly fell out after Wang informed Bo that his family was the subject of a police investigation related to the death of Heywood. Wang has not been seen in public since his appearance at the U.S. Consulate.
by RTT Staff Writer
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