Sensational China trial ends in seven hours, verdict later

Discussion in 'China' started by Oracle, Aug 9, 2012.

  1. Oracle

    Oracle New Member

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    (Reuters) - The woman at the centre of China's most politically explosive trial in three decades did not contest charges of murder on Thursday in a hearing that lasted just seven hours and could determine the fate of former Politburo member Bo Xilai.

    A formal verdict will be delivered at a later date, a court official said, recounting details of the closed-door hearing.

    Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, chose not to contest the charge of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood whose alleged secretive dealings with the couple fuelled a scandal exposing the intimate nexus between money and power in China's elite.

    The dramatic account of Heywood's death by poisoning is also likely to sound the final death knell to Bo's political career, even as sympathizers cast him as the victim of a push to oust him and discredit his left-leaning agenda.

    "The accused Bogu (Gu) Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun did not raise objections to the accusations of intentional homicide," the official, Tang Yigan, said after the hearing, referring also to Gu's co-accused, an aide to the family.

    State television showed Gu, wearing a dark pant suit and a white shirt, being led into the courtroom and being seated in the dock. She appeared to have put on weight since she was detained earlier this year.

    The court official quoted prosecutors as saying Gu and Zhang had killed Heywood with a poisoned drink in far southwestern Chongqing last November, after a business dispute between Gu and Heywood. Bo ruled the vast municipality until he was sacked in March just before the murder scandal burst into the open.

    As a result of the dispute with Heywood, Gu had become convinced Heywood was a threat to her son, Bo Guagua, the official said without elaborating.

    "Gu Kailai believed that Neil Heywood had threatened the personal safety of her son Bo (Guagua) and decided to kill him," the official added, reading from a statement to a packed news conference of dozens of reporters who had been barred entry to the courtroom in the eastern city of Hefei.

    The aide, Zhang, had driven Heywood to Chongqing last November from Beijing and prepared a poison which was to be put later into a drink of water. Later that day, Heywood met Gu at a hotel, he became drunk and then asked for water.

    "She poured a poison into his mouth," the official said.

    GU MAY AVOID DEATH PENALTY

    Gu and Zhang face the death penalty if convicted. But many legal experts expect Gu will be convicted but only sentenced to a lengthy jail term, citing her desire to protect her son, who graduated from Harvard this year, as a mitigating factor.

    Gu's state-appointed lawyer told the court on Thursday that Heywood himself had some "responsibility in the matter", the court official said, adding that a Heywood family representative had voiced respect for the court during the hearing.

    In London, family members declined to comment on the case.

    Britain's Foreign Office also declined to comment until the outcome of the case. It said two British diplomats had attended the trial "to observe the proceedings and fulfill consular responsibilities to the Heywood family", a spokesman said.

    As the trial took place, police dragged two Bo supporters into an unmarked car after they appeared outside the courthouse, singing patriotic songs that were the trademark of Bo's populist leadership style and condemning the trial as a sham.

    "I don't believe it. This case was decided well in advance," Hu Jiye, a middle-aged man wearing a T-shirt and baseball cap, told foreign reporters at the rear of the court building, which was cordoned off by dozens of police standing in heavy rain.

    Hu and his friend were then shoved by plainclothed police into a car. His companion, also a middle-aged man, struggled, yelling "Why are you taking me? Why are you taking me?"

    State censorship of Internet chatter on the trial was swifter than normal on Thursday, with users of China's popular Twitter-like service Sina Weibo playing cat and mouse with censors to discuss the case, using word play to try and get around the controls.

    COVER-UP ALLEGATIONS STALK BO

    In sketching out the case against Gu for the first time, the court official also revealed that four Chinese policemen had now been charged with trying to protect her from investigation - a development that could prove dangerous for Bo, who has so far not been charged with any criminal offence.

    Police sources in Chongqing have said that the former Politburo member tried to shut down the investigation into his wife after being told she was a suspect.

    Bo and Gu have been in detention and have not made any comment since Gu was officially accused of murder in April. Bo's supporters see it as part of an attack on his populist brand of politics in Chongqing, which appealed to many of the party's leftists but was seen as dangerous by his enemies in Beijing.

    Gu, herself a career lawyer, was defended by a state-appointed lawyer with meager experience in criminal cases.

    The state decided who was to represent Gu, denying her the use of a family lawyer - a move that prompted Gu's 90-year-old mother, Fan Chengxiu, to recently complain to the Justice Ministry, according to a source close to the family.

    "The answer (from the ministry) was that the legal process did not have to be fully carried out in this case and that Fan should stop pestering them," the source said.

    The trial of Gu, glamorous daughter of the ruling Communist Party aristocracy, is the most sensational since the conviction of the Gang of Four more than 30 years ago for crimes during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.

    But despite British calls for the case to be handled fairly and to unearth the truth around Heywood's death, her defense was entrusted to two provincial lawyers.

    The two lawyers, Jiang Min and Zhou Yuhao, could not be reached for comment but a search of public information showed the more senior attorney, Jiang, is a specialist in financial cases and that neither has any obvious connection to the Bo family.

    YOUNGER BO

    Bo and Gu's son, who is believed to be still in the United States after graduating from Harvard this summer, told CNN in an e-mail that he had submitted a witness statement to the court.

    "I hope that my mother will have the opportunity to review them," added Bo Guagua. "I have faith that facts will speak for themselves." CNN said he did not elaborate.

    The trial and sentencing of both Gu and Zhang are widely seen as a prelude to a possible criminal prosecution of Bo, who is being detained for violating party discipline - an accusation that covers corruption, abuse of power and other misdeeds.

    Bo, who was a favorite of party leftists by promoting himself as a friend of the poor and an enemy of corruption, was sacked as Chongqing party chief in March after his police chief, Wang Lijun, identified Gu as a suspect in Heywood's death.

    On Thursday morning, there was no sign of Gu's elderly mother, nor of any members of Heywood's family in or around the courtroom.

    Reuters
     
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  3. Oracle

    Oracle New Member

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    Murder Trial of Chinese Official’s Wife Begins and Concludes

    HEFEI, China — The murder trial of Gu Kailai, the wife of the deposed political leader Bo Xilai, began here on Thursday morning and came to an end seven hours later, with officials saying that the defendant and her accomplice had all but confessed to poisoning a British businessman who had threatened the safety of Ms. Gu’s son.

    In a statement read to foreign journalists, the deputy director for the Hefei Intermediate People’s Court placed most of the blame on Ms. Gu, saying she gave the Briton, Neil Heywood, a fatal dose of poison as they sat in a hotel room in Chongqing, the metropolis in southwest China that was run by her husband until his downfall last spring. “The criminal facts are clear; the evidence is solid,” the court official, Tang Yigan, said.

    A verdict will be announced at a later time.

    According to the statement, the poison was prepared in advance and given to a family employee, Zhang Xiaojun, who had accompanied Mr. Heywood to Chongqing from his home in Beijing. It said the killing took place on the evening of Nov. 13 after Ms. Gu and Mr. Heywood spent time drinking together at a rented villa on the outskirts of the city. After consuming some alcohol, Mr. Heywood asked for a glass of water; it was then that Ms. Gu poured the poison into his mouth, the court said.

    Mr. Tang also said Mr. Heywood deserved some responsibility for the murder because he had threatened the safety of Ms. Gu’s son, Bo Guagua, a recent graduate from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He did not elaborate on the nature of the threat.

    Analysts believe the mitigating circumstances presented by the court — that she feared for the safety of her son — lessened the likelihood that Ms. Gu would face the death penalty.

    Mr. Tang, the court official, also portrayed Ms. Gu as emotionally frail.

    “Bogu Kailai’s ability to control her own behavior was weaker than that of a normal person,” he said, using a name that combines her name with that of her husband. Some analysts have suggested that referring to her by a compound name, following an outdated tradition sometimes used by Chinese outside mainland China, hints that she has or had foreign residency. Party rules prohibit the family of top leaders from obtaining foreign residency.

    The court suggested that any penalty would take into account the fact that Ms. Gu was cooperative and “meritorious,” having provided evidence about the crimes of others, although it did not provide further details.

    The court’s statement raised a host of questions: it did not explain the “economic interests” that had prompted the dispute between Ms. Gu and Mr. Heywood, 41, an enigmatic figure and longtime friend. It also avoided any mention of her husband, who reportedly knew about his wife’s crime and sought to cover it up.

    One Chinese journalist who attended the trial said Mr. Bo’s name came up only once, when it referred to Mr. Zhang as a family employee.

    The trial’s brevity suggests that Chinese leaders are eager to close what has become an embarrassing scandal, one that strained Chinese-British relations and complicated an upcoming leadership transition scheduled for the fall.

    The British Embassy had no immediate comment on the trial. Two British consular officials were seen entering the courthouse on Thursday morning.

    The choice of the venue — in China’s eastern Anhui Province, hundreds of miles from the scene of the crime — highlighted the extent to which Communist Party leaders were seeking to minimize anything unexpected, however unlikely, that might arise during the painstakingly orchestrated trial. Legal analysts say distance was not the only factor in choosing the provincial capital of Anhui: the president of the Supreme People’s Court, Wang Shenjun, has deep ties to the province, all but guaranteeing a compliant court.

    “This trial is just for show,” said Teng Biao, a prominent defense lawyer. “You can be sure there would be no surprises.”

    Coverage of the scandal, the most sensational in recent memory, has received little coverage in the Chinese media. Domestic news outlets have been ordered to use dispatches from Xinhua, the state news agency, and public discussion on the Internet has been blocked. On Thursday, a newspaper in Shenzhen splashed a photograph of Mr. Heywood on its front page, in what appeared to be a sly attempt to circumvent the restrictions. Inside, the paper ran the spare Xinhua announcement.

    On Thursday evening, the state broadcaster reported on the trial with footage from inside the courtroom. The clip showed Ms. Gu, smiling and wearing a black sport jacket over a white dress shirt, as she was led into the chambers. Mr. Zhang was dressed in a white golf shirt. Neither was in handcuffs. The camera lingered on two non-Chinese men, presumably the British officials. The announcer read the same statement that had been given to foreign journalists earlier, although it did add one significant new detail: that four police officials in Chongqing would be tried for harboring Mr. Gu. The officers, who will be tried on Friday in the same court, have been charged with “bending the law to serve personal favoritism,” according to the broadcast.

    The trial comes at a sensitive time for the Communist Party, which is going through the final steps of a once-in-a-decade waltz that will elevate a new raft of leaders. Although the killing of a foreign national, allegedly by the wife of a high-profile politician, has proved embarrassing to Beijing, Chinese leaders have been more challenged by the events that unfolded in the months that followed the death.

    In February, a trusted ally of Mr. Bo’s who was reportedly fearing for his life sought refuge in the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, where he is said to have revealed details of the killing — and perhaps other information that the party would rather not share with the Americans.

    Senior leaders moved relatively quickly, ousting Mr. Bo from his posts in April, and shortly afterward, Xinhua announced the arrest of Ms. Gu and Mr. Zhang, the family employee. The evidence, Xinhua said last month, was “irrefutable and substantial.”

    Although Xinhua has broadly described the crime as born from “a conflict of economic interests,” most analysts predicted that the details of those interests would not be discussed during the trial, given their potential to complicate the case against Mr. Bo, who is still awaiting his fate.

    Cheng Li, an expert on Chinese politics at the Brookings Institution, said party leaders might also be leery of publicly airing details about financial dealings that could involve tens of millions of dollars, according to those with knowledge of the investigation. Although few Chinese have illusions about the probity of their leaders, party officials do not necessarily want such dirty laundry to be aired so prominently, especially about Mr. Bo, who still enjoys strong support among certain factions of the leadership and among ordinary Chinese.

    “They are eager to keep the focus on murder, which is so much easier to deal with than corruption,” Mr. Li said.

    It is not clear whether any family members attended the trial on Thursday. Bo Guagua, the couple’s only child, who recently graduated from the Kennedy School at Harvard, remained in the United States. Mr. Bo declined to discuss the case, but in a statement on Wednesday he confirmed that he had submitted witness testimony on behalf of his mother.

    “As I was cited as a motivating factor for the crimes accused of my mother, I have already submitted my witness statement,” he said. “I hope that my mother will have the opportunity to review them.”

    It is likely that neither his mother nor her lawyers had a chance to review such documents in advance. According to one person close to the family, as of Wednesday afternoon Ms. Gu had not seen the prosecution’s case file.

    Still, in the scheme of things, such judicial niceties were likely irrelevant. The defense lawyers initially chosen by the family were barred from seeing Ms. Gu; a few weeks ago, a pair of government-appointed lawyers from Anhui were chosen instead.

    “Forcing court-appointed lawyers on a defendant is illegal but it’s an old trick,” said Mr. Teng, the defense lawyer. “Court-appointed lawyers are more interested in helping the prosecutors move the trial along than with protecting a defendant’s rights.”

    The New York Times
     
  4. Predator

    Predator Regular Member

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    wife "confesses" to protect husband
     
  5. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Is a got up trial by a Kangaroo court.
     
  6. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Did she really kill the Briton? or this is just a set-up by CCP?
     
  7. Predator

    Predator Regular Member

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    i think her husband killed the briton to silence him regarding some shady business dealings, wife is trying to save husband's reputation, the husband will be rehabilitated later by the party, brotherhood of thieves.
     

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