Chinese Court: Wife of Disgraced Politician Didn’t Deny Murder Charge

Posted August 9th, 2012 at 12:25 pm (UTC-5)
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A Chinese court says the wife of disgraced politician Bo Xilai did not deny murder charges against her in a high-profile trial Thursday.

A court official said prosecutors accused Gu Kailai of luring British businessman Neil Heywood to a hotel in the southwestern city of Chongqing last November, getting him drunk and poisoning him. It was the first time Chinese authorities disclosed details of Gu's alleged role in the death of Heywood, her business partner at the time.

No independent media were allowed into the courtroom in Hefei. The court official quoted prosecutors as saying Gu was the “main culprit,” while her butler and co-defendant Zhang Xiaojun was an “accomplice.” Gu appeared in state television footage of the trial — the first time she has been seen in months.

The court official said prosecutors believe Heywood vomited after drinking alcohol and asked Gu for water. He said Gu took a poison prepared by Zhang and poured it into to Heywood's mouth. The official said Gu did not object to the allegations, but she has never publicly offered her side of the story.

Gu faces a possible death sentence. No date for a verdict was announced, but officials said four police officials would stand trial Friday for trying to cover up her alleged crime.

Bo Xilai was a rising star in the Communist party, but was removed as Chongqing party chief after the allegations against his wife surfaced.

Chinese prosecutors have said Gu had a financial dispute with Heywood and thought that he posed a threat to her son's safety.

The son of a famous revolutionary leader, the charismatic Bo was a top contender for the Politburo Standing Committee, China's top decision-making body, before he was stripped of his posts earlier this year.

China's Communist Party is set to undergo a rare leadership transition later this year. Many Chinese suspect Beijing officials are using the case as a way to wreck his political career.

Joshua Rosenzweig, a Hong Kong-based human rights researcher, told VOA the trial is “par for the course” for China's criminal justice system.

“It's quite unusual for Chinese criminal trials, in my experience, to take longer than a day…the reason why criminal trials tend to be so short in China is because the process is quite structured, you would almost say streamlined.”

Rosenzweig says witnesses rarely appear in court and there is little back-and-forth between prosecution and defense, as is the case in many other countries' court hearings.