Gu Kailai Trial Ends Without Verdict

Posted August 9th, 2012 at 7:40 am (UTC-5)
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China's most politically explosive trial in recent memory ended in a matter of hours Thursday when Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai, did not object to the murder charges against her.

A court official said a verdict has not been delivered in the high-profile case, which was held at a tightly guarded courthouse in the eastern city of Hefei. The official did not say when a verdict was expected, but that prosecutors believe she is the “main culprit” in the crime.

Gu and her butler were accused of poisoning British businessman Neil Heywood in November in the southwestern city Chongqing, where Bo was Communist Party leader. Officials said Gu may have had a financial dispute with Heywood and thought that he posed a threat to her son's safety.

If convicted, Gu faces a possible death penalty. But she may receive a less severe sentence after officials said she cooperated in the case which has already brought down her husband Bo Xilai, who was once considered a rising star in Chinese politics.

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

The scandal comes at a sensitive time for China's Communist Party, which is set to undergo a rare leadership transition later this year. Many Chinese suspect that Beijing officials are using the case as a way to wreck the charismatic Bo's political career.

Even before Gu's speedy, hours-long trial, there were concerns about whether she would receive a fair defense, and few doubted she would be found guilty.

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.

Some say a conviction of Gu is a precursor to a possible criminal prosecution of Bo, who is currently being investigated by the Communist Party for corruption. Bo is currently detained and has not been heard from in months.

Separately, court officials said Thursday that four police will stand trial later this week after being charged with attempting to cover up the alleged murder of Heywood.