Saturday, August 24, 2013

China's Bo Xilai on trial

JINAN, Aug. 23 -- Jinan Intermediate People's Court in east China's Shandong Province continued to hear the case of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power involving Bo Xilai for a second day on Friday.
 


The 64-year-old Bo is former secretary of the Chongqing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and former member of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau.

Prosecutors accuse Bo accepted bribes worth about 21.8 million yuan (about 3.5 million U.S. dollars) from businessmen Tang Xiaolin and Xu Ming and embezzled five million yuan in public funds from the Dalian municipal government. He was also accused of abusing power when dealing with his wife Bogu Kailai's murder case and the defection of his associate, Wang Lijun, in 2012.


On the second day of the trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Bo accepted a large sum of money and property from Xu Ming through his wife, Bogu Kailai, and his son, Bo Guagua.

In the morning session prosecutors presented documentary evidence and played a video recording of Bogu Kailai's testimony on Aug. 10 this year.

Prosecutors also read testimony by Bogu Kailai and Frenchman Patrick Devillers.

Video and audio evidence shown in court indicated that Xu Ming provided funds for Bogu Kailai to buy a villa in France worth over 2.32 million Euros (16.25 million yuan), and that Bo Xilai was aware of this.

In the afternoon session, evidence included testimony of witnesses including Zhang Xiaojun, photographs of material evidence, confessions and the handwritten confessions of the defendant, proving that through his wife and son, Bo received almost 4.43 million yuan from Xu Ming, to pay for international and domestic air tickets, accommodations and travelling expenses, to pay off credit card debt, and buy a Segway scooter.

Prosecutors, the defendant and his lawyers examined the evidence.

Facing key facts of the charges, Bo defended that the evidence was irrelevant, saying he had only a vague impression of amounts and no one had told him exactly how much money was spent. His lawyers expressed views on the truth of witnesses' testimonies and the legality of the documentary evidence.

Prosecutor responded directly, pointing out that the defendant had expressed numerous conflicting views on key facts during his defense.

Prosecutors said that the evidence presented in court was taken legally from clear sources and should be examined comprehensively in the context of the entire case.

Wang Zhenggang, then director of the Dalian municipal bureau of urban and rural planning and land, appeared in the afternoon to testify on embezzlement charge against Bo.

Wang was handled in a separate case.

The court will continue to hear the case on Saturday to maintain the continuity of the trial, as agreed by prosecutors, the defendant and his lawyers. 


- Contributed by DuMingming、Liang Jun

Bo's trial updated live on microblog
A woman views the Chinese social media website Weibo at a cafe in Beijing on April 2, 2012 (AFP/File, Mark Ralston)



The highly anticipated trial of former politburo member Bo Xilai began Thursday, surprisingly with an almost unprecedented flood of real-time information about the proceedings.

The Jinan Intermediate People’s Court used Weibo, a popular Twitter-like microblog service, to deliver a running account of the trial since its start. The number of followers of its microblog page has jumped from less than 10,000 on Wednesday to over 300,000 by 7 pm Thursday. The court also arranged a media lobby at a nearby hotel, to provide live feed of trial details to reporters.

This is the first time details of a trial of a senior Chinese official have been released real-time to the public. In the past, such high level court trials took place behind closed doors, with details being released only after sentencing.

Bo calls wife mad after she testifies against him 

JINAN, China (Reuters) - Fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai called his wife insane after she testified at his landmark trial on Friday that he knew of money and a villa in the French Riviera that prosecutors say were given to the couple by a businessman friend.

The video and written testimony by Gu Kailai directly contradicted Bo's robust defence on Thursday, and appear to set him up to be found guilty in China's most dramatic trial since the Gang of Four were dethroned in 1976 at the end of the Cultural Revolution.

"He should know about it all," Gu said in a video recording shown in court and posted on the court's microblog, when asked whether Bo knew that she and their son, Bo Guagua, had received money from plastics-to-property entrepreneur Xu Ming.

Bo dismissed Gu's testimony as the ravings of a madwoman.

"Bogu Kailai has changed, she's insane, often tells lies," Bo said, according to transcripts on the court microblog, using Gu's official but rarely used name. "Under the circumstances of her mental illness, the investigators placed huge pressure on her to expose me.

"Her testimony as far as I am concerned, was (given) under psychological pressure, and driven by (hope of) a reduced sentence," he added.

Gu has been jailed for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in November 2011, the crime which eventually led to Bo's downfall.

The businessman Xu, who is also in custody, was once close to the Bo family, but also testified against him on Thursday, according to the transcripts. Foreign reporters were not allowed into the court.

Bo, the 64-year-old former Communist Party chief of Chongqing metropolis, has been charged with illegally taking almost 27 million yuan (2.82 million pounds), corruption and abuse of power. Of that amount, about 21.8 million yuan came from Xu and another businessman Tang Xiaolin, the court said, citing the indictment.

Bo was a rising star in China's leadership circles when his career was stopped short last year by the scandal involving Gu.

Supporters of Bo's Maoist-themed social programmes say he lost out in a power struggle with capitalist-leaning reformists in Beijing, exposing divisions within the ruling party as well as Chinese society.

Last week, two sources told Reuters that Gu would only testify against her husband if a deal had been reached with authorities to protect their son.

A deal in which Bo can be swiftly convicted and sent to jail, sparing him a death penalty and with no repercussions for his son, would be in the interest of China's leadership, which wants the trial to be concluded without causing open friction between Bo's followers and critics.

On Thursday, observers said the court proceedings were probably scripted and that Bo could receive a pre-arranged sentence in exchange for limited outbursts that would show that the trial was fair, appeasing his followers.

The trial will continue for a third day on Saturday, the court said, despite expectations it could last just a single day.

VILLA IN NICE

In written testimony, Gu said she had shown Bo the graphics and slideshows for the design of a villa in Nice, France that was paid for by Xu. Bo asked her about the slideshows and according to Gu, she told Bo about Xu's involvement.

"Therefore he knew that I asked Xu Ming to pay for this villa in France," Gu said in her written statement.

In the poorly shot video, Gu appeared soft-spoken and composed as she was questioned by a worker from the state prosecutor's office. She laughed when asked whether she had been coerced into giving evidence.

Gu did not link Bo with Heywood's murder, but said he was aware she considered the Briton a threat to their son. According to testimony at Gu's trial, she killed Heywood because he had threatened Guagua after a business dispute with Gu.

Gu said Bo was also aware of her fears about the safety of Guagua, who is now in the United States
preparing for a law degree at Columbia University. Gu said she was afraid Guagua "would be kidnapped and killed in America".

"In 2011, Guagua's personal safety was threatened and Bo Xilai understood this," she said in her written testimony.

"We drew up a blacklist of suspicious people. One of them was Neil Heywood. I explained all of this to Bo Xilai."

Bo could face the death sentence, though a suspended death sentence is more likely, which effectively means life imprisonment, or a 20-year term.

Contributed by John Ruwitch - The Star (Additional reporting by Judy Hua in JINAN and Sui-Lee Wee, Ben Blanchard and Hui Li in BEIJING, Writing by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Bo's trial updated live on microblog
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