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Bo Xilai trial: Trial for China's disgraced former politician begins
Publication Date : 22-08-2013
China's most sensational court trial in decades has begun.
Former Communist Party's Chongqing branch boss Bo Xilai made his first public appearance in 17 months on Thursday to face criminal charges, as the Communist Party seeks to close the chapter on the divisive and controversial politician.
The ex-Politburo member, who has not been seen since his sacking in March last year, is accused of abuse of power in covering his wife Gu Kailai's murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in November 2011.
A former commerce minister and mayor of north-eastern Dalian city, Bo, 64, also faces charges of taking bribes and embezzling funds totalling 25 million yuan (US$4 million).
His trial is taking place in eastern Jinan city, Shandong province, where more than 100 journalists are jostling for space alongside Bo supporters and curious locals outside the Jinan Intermediate People's Court.
A political blueblood once seen as a contender for the Communist Party's apex Politburo Standing Committee, Bo is certain to be convicted given that the courts are under the party's control.
He faces a possible death penalty though observers believe his eventual punishment ranges between a 15-year jail term and a suspended death sentence, depending on how cooperative he is.
The key thing to watch during the trial is thus whether Bo will challenge the charges against him.
"Usually accused persons will not admit to all the charges against them. If Bo does not dispute any of the charges, then probably it's a sign that a deal has been reached beforehand," Beijing-based lawyer Mo Shaoping told The Straits Times.
Another talking point will be whether his wife Gu, who was given a suspended death sentence last September, will turn up in court to testify against him.
Bo is the third Politburo member ever to be charged with graft, following the fate of former Beijing mayor Chen Xitong and ex-Shanghai boss Chen Liangyu.
The court hearing is expected to last at most two days. A verdict is expected in early September, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.
Show us Bo's photo, netizens urge
Show us a photo of the man, China's vocal netizens have demanded as the much-awaited court trial of ex-Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai opened on Thursday morning in eastern Jinan city.
"Everyone's eagerly awaiting for just one photo. Are the Jinan court staff still learning how to take and upload photos?," investment banker Wang Ran posted on his Twitter-like Sina Weibo account.
Another Weibo user "zhangwenzhongdewenzhang" posted: "I strongly request for a photo!"
Property magnate Ren Zhiqiang tweeted: "CCTV is only showing cooking programmes."
Lawyer Xie Youping lamented: "There has been no photo of Bo Xilai or the court proceedings. Seems like there's nothing for us to see."
Netizens are eager for a photo of Bo for various reasons.
Some want to see how the once-powerful politician has fallen or aged, since he was sacked in March last year and has not been seen publicly.
Bo has been held in secret detention, awaiting his trial on charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power in covering up his wife Gu Kailai's murder offence.
There were reports that he had refused to shave in protest of his detention.
Others want to judge if the person in court is the real deal. This is because Gu's first public appearance during her trial in August last year showed her looking fatter and sparked suspicions that a body double was used.