Verdict in Murder Trial of Bo Xilai’s Wife to Be Issued Aug. 20

Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai
Bo Xilai, right, and wife Gu Kailai, seen here in Jan. 17, 2007. Photographer: Alexander F. Yuan/AP Photo

Chinese authorities will announce the verdict in the murder trial of the wife of ousted Politburo member Bo Xilai on Aug. 20, a local government official said.

The Hefei Intermediate People’s Court, in the capital of China’s Anhui province, will reconvene to issue its decision, Zheng Mingwu, vice director of the provincial government’s information office, said by telephone today.

The verdict will conclude one chapter in a scandal that has clouded a once-in-a-decade leadership transition and shift attention to how the ruling Communist Party will handle Bo’s case. China’s leaders have sought to cast his downfall as an isolated episode involving an errant senior official ahead of the party congress that will choose the next generation of leaders later this year.

Gu Kailai confessed to charges that she poisoned British businessman Neil Heywood in his hotel room during her one-day trial Aug. 9, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said.

The political context of the case and the manner in which court proceedings are conducted in China all point to a predetermined guilty verdict, Donald Clarke, a law professor at George Washington University, said before the trial started. Clarke said he expected Gu to get a suspended death sentence.

The drama began in February when Bo’s former police chief in Chongqing fled to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu with evidence implicating Gu in Heywood’s murder, according to U.S. officials briefed on the matter. The resulting diplomatic uproar presaged Bo’s ouster as Chongqing party chief in March and his suspension from the Politburo in April.

There were more than 140 people present in the court at Gu and Zhang’s trial, including members of Heywood’s family and friends, as well as British embassy officials, Hefei court official Tang Yigan said Aug. 9.

Bo, previously a candidate to join the Politburo Standing Committee, which is China’s supreme decision-making body, is under investigation by the party for “serious disciplinary violations.” He hasn’t been seen in public since the National People’s Congress in Beijing in March.

— With assistance by Kevin Hamlin

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