China: Gu Kailai murder trial on August 9

Last Updated: Saturday, August 4, 2012 - 00:38

Beijing: The politically sensitive murder trial of Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced senior Chinese Communist Party leader Bo Xilai, for allegedly killing a British businessman, would begin from August 9.

The trial would be held in the eastern Chinese city of Hefei even though the British businessman, Neil Heywood was murdered in Chongqing city for which Bo was the Chief until early this year, BBC quoted lawyers as saying.

However, there is no official announcement on this.

Prosecutors announced last week that Gu and Zhang Xiaojun, an orderly employed at Bo`s home, had been charged with intentional homicide.

Heywood, a businessman regarded as a close friend of Bo was found dead in a hotel in Chongqing on November 15, 2011.

The alleged murder triggered the Communist Party`s biggest scandal in recent years resulting in the downfall of Bo, regarded as an emerging leader attempting to revive Maoist hard-line ideology discarded by the party three decades ago in favour of market reforms.

The BBC report quoted legal experts as saying that authorities were concerned about the political influence Bo and his family may still exert in Chongqing where they reportedly remained popular and whether that would affect a fair trial.

Bo was credited to make Chongqing a highly developed crime free city.

His downfall came after his deputy Wang Lijun, who investigated the murder case sought refuge in US Consulate in Chengdu reportedly fearing reprisals from Bo.

He came out 24 hours after assurances about his safety from central leadership.

After that Gu and her orderly were arrested while Bo was sacked from all Party posts and investigated for indiscipline.

The allegations against him were that he interfered with the investigations against his wife`s involvement.

His downfall came just as he was expected to pitch for a high-level post in this year`s party Congress which would select a new set of leaders to replace the old guard headed by President Hu Jintao for the past 10 years.

His removal was regarded as a big setback for hard-line faction in the party attempting to reverse the market economy orientation of the party.

Analysts say the party was keen to complete the trial before the party Congress meet likely in November this year.

The murder charges could result in death sentence.

Some rights groups apprehended that the orderly may be made a scapegoat with a death sentence while Gu could get away with life sentence.

Heywood death was initially attributed to excessive drinking, but the government announced in April it was investigating Bo`s wife in connection with the case.

The allegation against Gu was that she squabbled with Heywood over "economic interests," and she regarded him as a threat to her son`s safety and poisoned him.

Britain, which had asked China to investigate the matter further, said it welcomed the charges.

"The details of the ongoing investigation are a matter for the Chinese authorities," a British Foreign Office spokesman said in a statement last week.

"However, we are glad to see that the Chinese authorities are continuing with the investigation. We are dedicated to seeking justice for him and his family and we will be following developments closely," the spokesman said.

Heywood who resided in China for over a decade is married to a Chinese woman.

Some reports said he may be connected to British intelligence service.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague denied that possibility.

PTI



First Published: Friday, August 3, 2012 - 18:58

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