Chinese politician's wife convicted of murder

Gu Kailai, wife of prominent politician Bo Xilai, given suspended death sentence for murder of British businessman.

    Chinese politician's wife convicted of murder
    He Zhengsheng, the lawyer of the victim's family, announced the verdict to reporters outside the court [AP]

    Gu Kailai, the wife of a Chinese politician, has been given a suspended death sentence over the murder of a British businessman, a lawyer for the victim's family told reporters.

    "We respect today's decision," said He Zhengsheng, representing the family of Neil Heywood, who was killed last November.

    Monday's sentence means Gu is likely to face life in prison, provided she does not commit offences in the next two years.

    After the verdict was announced, Britain said it welcomed the investigation into Heywood's death.

    "We welcome the fact that the Chinese authorities have investigated the death of Neil Heywood, and tried those they identified as responsible," Britain's embassy in Beijing said in a statement.

    "We consistently made clear to the Chinese authorities that we wanted to see the trials in this case conform to international human rights standards and for the death penalty not to be applied," the statement said.

    Gu admitted in court earlier this month to poisoning Heywood after a business dispute that she said had led him to threaten her son.

    The scandal ended the career of Gu's husband, Bo Xilai, who was once seen as a contender for a place in China's next Communist Party leadership, which will be announced later this year.

    In March Bo was removed as party secretary of the city of Chongqing, with the party citing unspecified violations as the reason.

    'Biggest scandal' in decades

    Zhang Xiaojun, a Bo family aide who admitted to helping Gu with the murder, received a 9-year jail sentence, a court official said.

    Non-official media were not allowed in the courtroom.

    Gu's arrest and the ousting of her husband sparked the biggest political turbulence in China since the bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in 1989.

    Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride in Hong Kong described the case as one of the “biggest scandals to hit the Communist Party of China in the past two decades.”

    “Lots of questions are still left unanswered about Bo Xilai’s involvement in all of this,” McBride said. “He hasn’t been seen in public since March and there is lots of speculation about his involvement in the murder of Heywood and whether he was involved or not in any cover up.”

    Speaking to Al Jazeera from Hong Kong, Andrew Leung, an independent China specialist, said it was not in anyone’s interest to see the “party’s boat being rocked” by this case.

    “There is a consensus among the top leadership that this case has got to be dealt with quite firmly … before the next leadership [is decided] at the next party conference.”

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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