News / Asia

    China Prosecutors Push for Severe Bo Xilai Sentence

    In this image taken from video, Chinese politician Bo Xilai looks up in a court room at Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Jinan, eastern China's Shandong province, Aug. 26, 2013.
    In this image taken from video, Chinese politician Bo Xilai looks up in a court room at Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Jinan, eastern China's Shandong province, Aug. 26, 2013.
    Chinese prosecutors wrapped up their case Monday in the trial of fallen political star Bo Xilai by urging the court to impose a severe punishment on the once heralded Communist Party chief of Chongqing.

    "Following an intense debate in court today, Bo’s lawyers delivered their closing remarks and the chief judge announced the conclusion of the trial," said court spokesman Liu Yanjie after five days of hearings. "The sentencing will be released at a later date yet.”

    The prosecution says the evidence in the case clearly shows that Bo is guilty of taking bribes, corruption and abuse of power. They urged the court to impose a stiff sentence because of the defendant's unwillingness to admit guilt.

    Defense lawyers argued in closing remarks Monday that, aside from allowing a businessman to purchase airline tickets for his wife and son, Bo's career was free of corruption from 2005 onward.

    Bo Xilai’s trial was unique in many ways. Although foreign media were barred from attending the proceedings, the press and public in China followed updates from the courtroom closely. At times the transcripts read like a soap opera and gave the public a rare glimpse into the entitlements families of China’s high-ranking leaders enjoy.

    Most Chinese officials readily admit their guilt when put on trial and proceedings are typically swift. Bo instead put up a spirited fight, but he did not turn the trial into a political event by denouncing opponents or questioning the court's legitimacy.   

    One by one, during the trial, Bo attacked the credibility of almost all of the witnesses who testified against him, including his wife. Earlier he said that she was insane and argued that as a convicted murderer her testimony lacked credibility.

    He has said he had an affair in the late 1990s which prompted his wife to move overseas.

    In court Monday, Bo dropped another bombshell, alleging that his former top lieutenant, Wang Lijun, was having an affair with his wife Gu Kailai. Bo says the affair is the reason Wang fled to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, setting in motion the events that led to his detention.

    Chinese state media have given only limited coverage to Bo’s rebuttals in court and all but condemned him of his crimes. But, his comments have been readily available online and many legal scholars say the transparency in the trial is a step in the right direction.
     
    “There is no doubt that this trial is a big step forward in terms of transparency and public openness," said Zhu Wenqi, a legal professor at Beijing’s Renmin University, "particularly if you compare it with other trials such as the gang of four [following the Cultural Revolution] and the trial of Beijing’s mayor [Chen Xitong] and the way those cases were handled.”

    Bo was once widely popular in China and still has some supporters. Political analysts say that if it was not for the exposure of his wife’s murder of a British businessman, he could have been among a core group of men now leading the country.

    Instead, he could face a death sentence. Prosecutors allege that Bo received some $3.5 million in bribes from two businessmen and extorted more than $800,000 in public funds. Bo denies those charges and largely blames his wife. The prosecution says the corrupt funds were funneled to Bo through his wife and son.

    A verdict in the trial is expected early next month.

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