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Bo Xilai sentenced to life in prison

A Chinese court sentenced the disgraced former top politician to life after finding him guilty of abuse of power, corruption and bribery.

Journalists stand against a screen displaying a page from the Jinan Intermediate People's Court's website showing a photo of fallen politician Bo Xilai standing handcuffed as he is held by police at the court.
Journalists stand against a screen displaying a page from the Jinan Intermediate People's Court's website showing a photo of fallen politician Bo Xilai standing handcuffed as he is held by police at the court.
Image: Andy Wong/AP/Press Association Images

FALLEN CHINESE POLITICIAN Bo Xilai was sentenced by a court to life in prison today, following a sensational scandal that culminated in the country’s highest-profile trial in decades.

Bo, one of China’s top 25 politicians before his dramatic downfall, was convicted of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

“The court sentences Bo Xilai to life imprisonment for taking bribes, deprives him of his political rights for life and confiscates all his property,” it said in a statement.

The court convicted Bo of taking 20.4 million yuan (€2.4 million) in bribes.

It also said it gave Bo 15 years in prison for embezzlement and seven years for abuse of power.

Appeal

At a press conference, court spokesman Liu Yanjie said that Bo did not indicate in court whether or not he would appeal.

The catalyst for Bo’s fall came when his top aide in mega-city Chongqing, where he was party chief, fled to a US consulate with evidence the politician’s wife had murdered a British associate in February 2012.

With factions in the upper echelons of the Communist Party reportedly split over how to handle him, a year and a half passed before he went to trial, becoming the most high-profile official to do so in decades.

In last month’s gripping five-day hearing he mounted a fierce defence against claims that he corruptly obtained money and abused his political position to cover up the killing committed by his wife.

The bribery charges had made the 64-year-old Bo eligible for the death penalty, though analysts had seen that possibility as remote.

Joseph Cheng, a China politics expert at City University of Hong Kong, said that Bo’s active contestation of the charges during his trial was a factor in the harsh sentence.

“A defiant attitude and refusing to admit one’s guilt is considered bad behaviour and attracts a heavier sentence,” Cheng said.

The proceedings took place amid stepped up security outside the court, with dozens of police surrounding the building in Jinan, capital of eastern China’s Shandong province.

Dozens of police, some uniformed and others in plain clothes surrounded the court on Sunday. Barricades and barriers were erected more than 50 metres away from the court to prevent people from approaching.

A select group of media was allowed into a penned off area in front of the courthouse, where they clamoured to take photos of vehicles entering the court.

Though edited transcripts from the trial were posted online, China’s government has tightly controlled information about Bo’s case, and police erected barriers to stop pedestrians from entering areas around the court.

Passers-by hurried towards a shopping centre, showing little interest in the proceedings.

Corruption

The verdict comes as China’s new leadership under President Xi Jinping attempts to show it is cracking down on corruption, which he has said threatens the existence of the Communist Party.

But locals in Jinan expressed a widely held belief that trials of top officials are the outcome of political infighting, rather than purely legal proceedings.

Despite the life sentence, Bo might not spend all his remaining days in prison. In the past, senior Chinese politicians given prison terms have reportedly been released on medical parole and held under strict security at their family homes.

AFP, 2013

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