Gu Kailai trial ends without verdict

By Kathrin Hille in Hefei

The murder trial of Gu Kailai, wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai, has ended after just one day with no indication when a verdict will be delivered.

Chinese authorities declared Ms Gu the “main perpetrator” in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood after a closed-door trial that lasted under eight hours. The trial was the most anticipated in China since the Gang of Fourtook the stand three decades ago over the Cultural Revolution.

The Gu case was central to the downfall of Mr Bo, the ambitious former Chongqing Communist party secretary, who was considered a contender for the politburo standing committee until his purge in April.

Ms Gu’s trial was seen as key to resolving a power struggle within the Communist party leadership over the future of Mr Bo. The details given by the court after the hearing suggest that Mr Bo will not be implicated in the case.

Tang Yigan, vice-president of the Hefei Intermediate People’s Court, said the court would consider the evidence and arguments and announce a verdict “another day”.

In a briefing after the trial, Mr Tang said the prosecution had accused Ms Gu of planning the murder and arranging for Zhang Xiaojun, a family aide who was also on trial, to summon Heywood to Chongqing.

According to the prosecution, Mr Tang said, Ms Gu visited Heywood in his hotel room and drank alcohol and tea with him.

“When Heywood who was drunk needed water after vomiting, Gu Kailai took the opportunity to pour poison – which she had asked Zhang Xiaojun to bring along – into his mouth, causing his death,” Mr Tang said, recounting what he said was the prosecution’s argument.

“This case is a joint crime, BoGu Kailai is the main perpetrator, and Zhang Xiaojun is the accomplice,” Mr Tang said, using a surname – which combines Bo and Gu – that the authorities have used to describe the defendant.

Mr Tang said the defendants did not dispute the charges. He added that Ms Gu’s lawyer had argued that “the victim bears a certain responsibility for the motive of the case”, and that her “ability to control her behaviour was weaker than that of a normal person at the time of committing the crime”.

Two British consular officials who had been granted rare access entered the courthouse in the morning but declined to comment. The court was closed to all other business, with police sealing off an entire block and state security officers lining the streets.

The court authorities in Hefei, the capital of Anhui province, said the trial was taking place in its largest courtroom, which seats 400, but refused foreign media access. A spokesman said all seats had been given to “representatives of the masses, from all walks of life”.

The courthouse is located in a newly built district dominated by government buildings and shopping malls. Police had blocked off the entire courthouse compound and plainclothes state security officers with earplugs and umbrellas stood at the roadside and sat on the pavements.


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