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Gu Kailai, aide charged with murder, sentencing at a later date

Ousted Communist party leader Bo Xilai’s wife Gu Kailai did not contest charges that she murdered British businessman last November, it emerged at the end of her one-day murder trial in the eastern China city of Hefei on Thursday.

world Updated: Aug 09, 2012 17:34 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Ousted Communist party leader Bo Xilai’s wife Gu Kailai did not contest charges that she murdered British businessman last November, it emerged at the end of her one-day murder trial in the eastern China city of Hefei on Thursday.

Gu and family aide Zhao Xiaojun are standing trial for murdering Neil Heywood in a hotel in the southwestern city of Chongqing , where Bo was the mayor at that time.

“Their behavior has violated Article 232 of the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China; therefore, the two defendants should be held criminally responsible for intentional homicide, according to the prosecuting body. The case is a joint offence with Gu Kailai as the principal and Zhang Xiaojun as the accessory, the prosecuting body said,” state-run Xinhua said, quoting proceedings.

The verdict in the case – which could range from death penalty to long jail terms – will be announced at a later date.

Neither Gu nor Zhao contested the charges of “intentional homicide”.

The national broadcaster CCTV, which seldom covers sensitive domestic news, announced the court’s decision to adjourn for a later date to announce the verdict.

Television footage showed Gu in formal clothes and a stony face being escorted inside the court room. It also showed a shot of 33-year-old, clean shaven Zhang answering questions from lawyers.

It emerged that Gu Kailai and her son surnamed Bo had conflicts with Neil Heywood over economic interests. Worried about Heywood's threat to her son's personal security, Gu Kailai planned the murder.

“She asked Zhang Xiaojun, the other defendant and then an employee of the general office of the Chongqing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), to invite Heywood to Chongqing Municipality in southwest China and to accompany him from Beijing. Heywood stayed in Room No. 1605 of the 16th building of a vacation resort, the Lucky Holiday Hotel, in Chongqing.

“On November 13, 2011, Gu Kailai met Heywood in his hotel room for a drink. After Heywood was drunk, vomited and asked for water, she put the poison she had prepared, and which Zhang had brought along to the hotel room, into Heywood's mouth, which led to Heywood's death,” Xinhua said quoting proceedings in court.

Initially, Heywood’s murder was attributed to heart attack and his remains were burnt without an autopsy.

But when Chongqing police chief, and Bo’s confidante, Wang Lijun fled to US consulate in Chengdu in February claiming a cover-up of the murder and fearing for life, the death of Heywood was back in the spotlight. Soon after, UK requested China to reinvestigate the case.

Within weeks in March, Bo was sacked as mayor of Chongqing and also removed from Communist Party of China’s standing committee’s 25 members – the removal all but wiped out his chances to become one of the nine members of the all-powerful politburo of the standing committee.

In that sense, many interpret this more than just a murder case; Bo was considered a charismatic leader with close ties with the military and his Mao-era style of politics – like of public singing of patriotic songs in Chongqing -- is said to irked other senior CPC leaders.

Incidentally, Bo and Wang had led a well-publicised anti-crime drive in Chongqing which had given country-wide recognition.

It was also announced Thursday that six other officials of the Chongqing municipality including director of its public security bureau, Kuo Wei-Kuo have been charged with attempting to covering up the incident.