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Day 2 of Bo's trial: wife says took bribe

world Updated: Aug 24, 2013 01:15 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
bo xilai

The second day of expelled Communist leader Bo Xilai's trial was marked by a video of his wife testifying against him and details emerging of a luxury villa that the family owned in the French Riviera.

Like on Thursday, Bo dismissed the allegations calling his wife "mad" and saying that she was put under "a lot of pressure to testify against him".

During the proceedings – which will now spill over to the weekend - details emerged from eye witness accounts about the motive behind the murder of British businessman, Neil Heywood, once close to Bo Xilai and his family.

The court was told that Heywood had threatened to expose the Bo family's ownership of a villa on the French Riviera. Subsequently, on further souring of their relationship, he had threatened the safety of Bo's son, Guagua.

It was Heywood's death in November, 2011, discovered as murder few months later, that triggered the torrent of events that imploded Bo's rising political career within the Communist Party of China (CPC).

At that time of the events, he was already a member of the powerful 25-member CPC Politburo and Mayor of Chongqing, a municipality of 30 million people.

The proceedings began at the Jinan intermediate people's court in Shandong province in East China on Friday morning as the government flooded the state-run media with anti-Bo propaganda.

The government painted the judicial proceedings as "open and transparent" and said the live microblog feed was unique. But it is widely believed that the events unfolding at the Jinan court are carefully choreographed – a grand show.

Bo wasn't even seen in public since March last year until he was produced in court on Thursday further raising questions about the veracity of the judicial process in China; courts in China are under the CPC.

In the morning, prosecutors presented documentary evidence and played a video recording in which Gu Kailai gave testimony while being questioned on Aug. 10 this year.

The video, uploaded on the live feed from the Jinan intermediate people's court in Shandong province in East China showed, and also briefly broadcast on China Central Television, showed a thin Gu Kailai reading out a statement.

She said she had accepted money and property from businessman, Xu Ming, which was redirected to Bo.

On Thursday, Bo, 64, had flatly denied the bribery allegation, calling his wife's testimony "absurd" and "laughable".

"Prosecutors also read testimony given by witnesses Gu Kailai and Frenchman Patrick Devillers. Relevant video and audio evidence were shown in court to show that Xu Ming provided funds for Gu Kailai to buy a villa in France and that Bo Xilai was aware of this," state-run Xinhua news agency said.

Bo did not acknowledge the accusations, but expressed conflicting views on key facts during his defense, the report said.

It is also believed that Gu agreed to testify against her husband to secure a net of safety for their son, currently studying in the US.

Bo also dismissed his former confidante and former Chongqing police chief, Wang Lijun's testimony as "bullshit" and added that 99% of the prosecution's indictment had no connection to him.

Bo twice asked for Gu's presence in court. But the judge responded by saying that she had rejected to be in court and that she could not be forced to do so.

The Jinan court also investigated facts concerning Bo's alleged embezzlement of 5 million Yuan ($810,000) in public money.

During Thursday's trial, prosecutors said Bo accepted bribes worth about 21.79 million Yuan (about $3.5 million) from businessmen Tang Xiaolin and Xu Ming and embezzled five million Yuan of public funds from the Dalian government.

He was also accused of abusing power when dealing with his wife Gu Kailai's murder and associate Wang Lijun's defection in 2012.

On Friday, the government used a flood of propaganda to discredit Bo and his strong denial of the accusations.

National broadcaster, CCTV, interviewed people on the streets, saying the trial is an example that no one was above the law in China. Another person said it should be a warning to other corrupt politicians.

News readers read out posts from China's popular Twitter-like microblogs, praising the government, denouncing Bo and saying that the dignity of law could not be violated.

Reuters quoted a state-run Chinese newspaper, calling Bo's attitude "swollen with arrogance", and adding that he was "scheming, domineering and duplicitous".

"Previously, Bo Xilai would use lies to carve out his own greedy dreams, and today in court, he still denies the guilt that he has pleaded," the Guangming Daily said. "He's still carrying his lies."

Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, in a commentary on its website, slammed Bo's feisty defense as being little more than "futile quibbling".

"The evidence in irrefutable," the newspaper wrote. "Of course Bo Xilai has the right to defend himself...but if he lacks sincerity, then his excuses will be ridiculed."