China charges policemen in Gu Kailai cover-up

Gu Kailai says threats made against her son led to murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in November.

The wife of senior politician Bo Xilai has admitted she was behind the “tragedy” of Briton Neil Heywood’s death, saying she will “accept and calmly face any sentence” handed down by the judge. 

The statements came on Friday as Bo’s wife Gu Kailai waited to hear her fate after her one-day trial on Thursday, during which her lawyer did not contest the prosecution’s claim that she killed Heywood by pouring poison into his mouth when he was drunk.

Bo was one of China’s most senior leaders until his downfall earlier this year in a political scandal that has shaken the ruling Communist party.

Gu blamed her conduct on a mental breakdown she said she had suffered after receiving threats against her son.

There is little doubt Gu will be found guilty, but while murder carries the death penalty in China, legal experts say she is likely to be spared execution and will instead face a long jail term.

Her lawyer told the court her co-operation in the investigation, including “reporting offences by other people”, should be taken into account in her sentencing.

He also said Gu was not in full control of herself when she committed the crime, a court official told journalists after the hearing in the eastern city of Hefei.

It remains unclear when the verdict will be delivered, but it could be days or weeks away.

In a related development, four Chinese police officers – Guo Weiguo, Li Yang, Wang Pengfei and Wang Zhi – went on trial on Friday, charged with covering up Heywood’s killing.

The men stand accused of trying to protect Gu.

All four were senior police officials in Chongqing, the southwestern Chinese city that Bo ran until he was sacked in March, and where British businessman Neil Heywood’s body was discovered in a hotel room last November.

It is not clear whether Bo knew about the alleged cover-up. Nothing has been heard Bo since he was sacked from the powerful 25-member Communist Party Politburo in April and placed under investigation for corruption.

Political ramifications

Al Jazeera’s correspondent, Rob McBride, reporting from Hong Kong, said the court was still in session, but an announcement had been made saying a press briefing will follow at the end of the day.

“The police currently on trial, apart from being accused of covering up, they’re also being accused of favouritism,” he said. “Were they trying to protect Bo Xilai? If so, there will be political ramifications, and doe it imply he knew what was going on?”

“The trial is largely taking place behind closed doors, with state media being allowed in and reporting on events,” he said, adding that on Thursday there had been “a bit of a scuffle between Hong Kong reporters and police outside the courthouse, demonstrating that tensions were running high.

Analysts say the Communist Party is keen to resolve the crisis before a major congress to be held later this year, when seven of its most senior leaders will stand down from their positions and hand over to a new generation.

“It is quite clear that the authorities have reached an agreement over Bo Xilai,” Joseph Cheng, professor of political science at the City University of Hong Kong, said.

“[Gu’s] trial went so smoothly and according to the script … there was no mention of corruption and Bo Xilai’s name wasn’t mentioned.”

In a sign of the huge sensitivity of the case, no foreign media were allowed into Gu’s trial, and large numbers of uniformed and plain-clothes police stood guard outside the Hefei Intermediate Court.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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