Gu Kailai, the wife of sacked Communist party leader Bo Xilai, was given a two year suspended death sentence by a Chinese court on Monday for murdering British businessman, Neil Heywood.
According to Xinhua, she was deprived of political rights for life, said the court verdict announced by the Hefei City Intermediate People's Court in east China's Anhui Province.
Zhang Xiaojun, 33, family aide who was named by the prosecutors as a murder accomplice, were serve nine years in jail, the Hefei court ordered.
Both Gu and Zhang waived their right to appeal against the decision to a higher court when asked by the judge whether they would do so.
“I think, the verdict is just,” national broadcaster CCTV showed Gu as telling the court in Chinese.
Four top policemen with the Chongqing municipality were also sentenced to five to 11 years in jail for helping Gu cover up the murder.
More than 100 people attended Monday’s session held amid tight security in Hefei.
“We welcome the fact that the Chinese authorities have investigated the death of Neil Heywood, and tried those they identified as responsible. We consistently made clear to the Chinese authorities that we wanted to see the trials in this case conform to international human rights standards and for the death penalty not to be applied,” the British Embassy said in a statement.
The focus will be on what happens to Bo who is under investigation for violating party indiscipline. It’s still not clear whether he was aware about the murder plot and the crime itself.
According to the court proceedings, Gu plotted the murder after Heywood threatened via email to harm her son after business deals between them fell through. Accordingly, in November, Zhang escorted Heywood from Beijing to a hotel in Chongqing under Gu’s instruction. Subsequently, she poured water laced with cyanide into a drunken Heywood’s mouth, killing him.
It is likely that Gu’s death sentence will be commuted to life imprisonment after two years. But it’s not clear how many years she will serve in prison.
Gu and Zhang were charged under Article 232 of the Criminal Law: “Whoever intentionally commits homicide shall be sentenced to death, life imprisonment or fixed-term imprisonment of not less than 10 years; if the circumstances are relatively minor, he shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than 10 years.”
It’s clear in Zhang’s case that the “circumstances” were relatively minor.
Gu could end up spending anything more than 15 years or more in jail if her death sentence is commuted after two years.
As per article 50: “Anyone who is sentenced to death with a suspension of execution commits no intentional crime during the period of suspension, his punishment shall be commuted to life imprisonment upon the expiration of the two-year period;…”.
And it could be further reduced, if the person “…has truly performed major meritorious service, his punishment shall be commuted to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than 15 years but not more than 20 years upon the expiration of the two-year period.”