China to issue verdict in Gu murder case on Monday

A Chinese court will give a verdict on Monday on Gu Kailai, the Chinese politician's wife tried for murdering a British businessman, triggering a scandal that shook the ruling Communist Party. 

There seems little doubt Gu will be pronounced guilty by the court in Hefei, a city in central China, after she admitted at her trial on Aug. 9 to colluding with a family aide, Zhang Xiaojun, to poison businessman Neil Heywood over a business dispute that she said prompted him to threaten her son. 

"The verdicts for Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun will be announced at 9 a.m. on Monday," an official with the Hefei Intermediate People's Court told Reuters. 

The scandal over Heywood's death has already ended the career of Gu's husband, Bo Xilai, who ran the southwestern city of Chongqing where the murder happened in November. 

Suspicion about Heywood's death came to light after Bo's former long-time police chief, Wang Lijun, fled to a U.S. consulate for about 24 hours in early February and exposed the allegations. 

Chinese courts usually deliver verdicts and sentences at the same hearing, and Gu and Zhang could receive the death penalty. 

But lawyers have said Gu is likely to receive a long prison term, possibly life, because government accounts of the case have stressed she was seeking to protect her son, Bo Guagua, who was until recently a student at Harvard University. 

At the trial, Zhang said he was merely Gu's accomplice. 

A day after Gu's trial, four policemen from Chongqing admitted in the same court to trying to cover up the murder. 

Bo was sacked as Chongqing boss in March and his wife was publicly accused of the murder in April, when Bo was dumped from the Politburo and detained on an accusation he had violated party discipline - code for corruption, abuse of power and other misdeeds. Bo could be investigated for possible criminal offences after the Communist Party concludes its own inquiry. 

Bo's downfall has stirred more public division than that of any other party leader for more than 30 years. To leftist supporters, Bo became a charismatic rallying figure for efforts to reimpose party control over dizzying, unequal market growth. 

But he had made some powerful enemies among those who saw him as a dangerous opportunist who yearned to impose his harsh policies on the entire country. 

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