Bo Xilai Scandal: Police on Trial in Gu Kailai 'Cover-Up'

by
staff
Four policeman accused of covering up the murder of Briton Neil Heywood are to go on trial in China, a day after the wife of a former top politician was tried for the killing.

The trial comes a day after Gu Kailai was tried for murdering Neil Heywood

Four policeman accused of covering up the murder of Briton Neil Heywood are to go on trial in China, a day after the wife of a former top politician was tried for the killing.

The four are all senior officers from Chongqing, where the UK businessman was killed in November 2011.

On Thursday a one-day trial was held for Gu Kailai - wife of Chongqing's ex-leader Bo Xilai - on charges of murder.

A court official told reporters Ms Gu had not contested the charges.

The date of the verdict in her case is to be announced later, the official said.

The case appears to have ended the career of her husband, who had been seen as a likely candidate for a top job in the leadership transition due later this year.

Seven members of the nine-strong politburo Standing Committee are due to retire, paving the way for a new generation of leaders.

But former high-flier Mr Bo, a populist and an ambitious politician, has not been seen in public since the investigation into his wife was announced.

'Poured poison'

According to state media, the four police officers to be tried are accused of covering up Ms Gu's actions and "bending the law to achieve personal benefit".

They include Guo Weiguo, former deputy chief of Chongqing's Public Security Bureau, and Li Yang, former chief of the bureau's criminal section, Xinhua news agency said.

The other two officers were named as Wang Pengfei and Wang Zhi.

Foreign journalists seeking to attend the police officers' trial could not get in.

"It's open to the public but I'm afraid all the places are full at this time," a court spokeswoman told Reuters news agency.

Mr Heywood's death was initially recorded as a heart attack. But the case was reopened after Chongqing's top security official - police chief Wang Lijun - fled to the US consulate in Chengdu, reportedly with information that the Briton had been murdered.

Speaking after Gu Kailai's trial on Thursday, court official Tang Yigan said Ms Gu and her aide Zhang Xiaojun - who was also charged - "did not raise objections to the facts and the charges".

The prosecution alleged Ms Gu had been involved in a business dispute with Mr Heywood, and believed he had "threatened the personal safety of her son... and decided to kill him", Mr Tang said, reading from a statement.

"After Heywood became intoxicated, vomited and asked for a drink of water, she poured a poison into his mouth that had been prepared beforehand and that she had given to Zhang Xiaojun to bring along, causing Heywood's death," said the statement.

A formal verdict is to be delivered at a later date, the court said. Both face the death penalty if convicted but many observers say the suggestion that Ms Gu was protecting her son could be used as a justification for a degree of leniency.

Reporting controlled

Mr Heywood's relatives have not commented on the case and nor has the UK Foreign Office. Two British diplomats were allowed to witness the trial but no foreign journalists were allowed in.

Wang Lijun, who was once Bo Xilai's right-hand man, has not been seen in public since his flight to the US consulate in February.

The South China Morning Post, citing an unidentified source, said Mr Wang was expected to go on trial in Chengdu in the coming days.

How the party will handle Mr Bo, who has been sacked from his posts, remains unclear.

This scandal risked tainting the inner sanctum of the Communist Party just as it embarked on a delicate political transition to a new party leadership, reports the BBC's diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall.

Reporting of the case is being tightly controlled in Chinese media. On Friday, major mainland newspapers carried nothing beyond the Xinhua news agency report of the trial.

Comment on Twitter-like microblogs was also being tightly controlled, with all the key names in the case banned keywords.