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China court rejects appeal, upholds Bo Xilai's sentence

A Chinese court today rejected fallen politician Bo Xilai's appeal against his corruption conviction and confirmed his life sentence, as authorities looked to draw a line under a damaging scandal.

world Updated: Oct 25, 2013 14:16 IST

A Chinese court on Friday rejected fallen politician Bo Xilai's appeal against his corruption conviction and confirmed his life sentence, as authorities looked to draw a line under a damaging scandal.

"The facts of the first instance verdict are clear, the evidence is reliable, sufficient, and the sentence is appropriate," the Shandong province high court said in its ruling, which it released to the media and posted on its website.

"The court rules as follows: reject the appeal, uphold the original verdict. This verdict is the final ruling."

Bo had presented 11 grounds for appeal, it said, including that his confessions in custody were "produced under pressure from officials handling the case, and as illegal evidence should be disregarded".

Until 2012 Bo headed the southwestern megacity of Chongqing and was one of the highest-ranked politicians in the ruling Communist party, which tightly controls China's courts.

State broadcaster CCTV showed Bo handcuffed in the court, wearing a black jacket and smiling as he was flanked by two towering policemen in white gloves.

At the end of the hearing, which lasted less than an hour, they frogmarched the 64-year-old out of the courtroom, each gripping an arm and a shoulder.

His elder son Li Wangzhi was present, along with other relatives, the images showed.

Security was heavy around the courthouse in Jinan, the capital of Shandong in eastern China, with hundreds of police officers stationed every few metres around the building and the surrounding streets blocked off, with nearby shops closed.

Bo was in September condemned to life imprisonment on charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power, after a spectacular downfall that exposed infighting within the Communist party ahead of a once in a decade transition of power.

The courts have no further obligation to reconsider his case after the appeal, lawyers said, and Bo is unlikely to appear in public again.

He was not present for the consideration of the appeal, which took place earlier this month in a "closed hearing", a lawyer with direct knowledge of the case told AFP.

Friday's court decision "will be the final verdict. After that, the process is over", the lawyer said.

According to Chinese law, Bo will not be able to lodge any further formal appeals, and while he can submit a "petition" to China's supreme court, it is not required to take further action.

Analysts have said that the verdict against Bo was decided as a result of backroom bargaining between elite members of the Communist party -- some of whom are still thought to be allies of his.

"From the beginning, the verdict was not totally the court's decision. It's very likely that top leaders played a role," said He Weifang, a law professor at Peking University.

Bo, whose father was one of Communist China's "Eight Immortals", its most prominent revolutionary leaders, was ousted last year after a lurid scandal that saw his wife convicted of the murder of a British businessman.

Bo's trial in August revealed a lifestyle far in excess of what Communist Party officials on modest salaries should be able to afford, with evidence of bribes from rich businessmen, including a close associate who bought his family a villa in France.

His defiance over the course of the hearings astonished a public unfamiliar with the open airing of top-level intrigue and was in stark contrast to previous Chinese political trials, in which most defendants have humbly confessed their crimes in opaque court proceedings.

Bo's populist policies in Chongqing won him supporters across China, but his openly ambitious approach also alienated other top party leaders, who saw it as harking back to a bygone era of strongman rule.

The decision comes as the party attempts to show it is cracking down on corruption and government waste.