Wife of Chinese politician awaits verdict in murder trial

Thursday 09 August 2012 10.36
Police stand guard the outside the Intermediate People's Court in Hefei
Police stand guard the outside the Intermediate People's Court in Hefei

The secretive murder trial of the wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai has ended after just one day.

There has been no word on when a verdict will be delivered.

Gu Kailai and a household aide are accused of poisoning British businessman Neil Heywood last year in the southwestern city of Chongqing, where Mr Bo was Communist Party chief.

The trial was held at the Hefei Intermediate People's Court in eastern China.

The accused were represented by local government-appointed lawyers rather than their own lawyers.

The court's deputy director Tang Yigan said the trial has ended, but would not say when a verdict was expected.

The British Foreign Office confirmed that UK diplomats were given permission to attend the trial.

It is considered unusual for foreign observers to be granted access to such politically sensitive court cases in China.

Mr Xilai was once considered a strong contender for membership of the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee and possible future leader of the country.

He was sacked from his position in March after allegations surfaced linking Ms Gu to Mr Heywood's death, and Mr Bo remains under investigation by the party over corruption claims.

Mr Heywood’s death in a hotel last November was initially ruled accidental, and put down to alcohol abuse, but friends said Mr Heywood was not a big drinker.

Murder suspicions came to the fore after a former Chongqing police chief visited a US consulate in China and divulged information allegedly linking Ms Gu to Mr Heywood's death.

The case has convulsed China's political world ahead of the expected handover of power to a younger generation of leaders at the Communist Party's five-yearly National Congress in Beijing this autumn.