SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Four Chinese police officers went on trial charged with covering up the killing of a British man, as the wife of a senior politician awaited the verdict in her trial for his murder.
The four men are accused on Friday of trying to protect the spouse of Bo Xilai, who 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.
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 from the charismatic and ambitious former leader since he was sacked from the powerful 25-member Communist Party Politburo in April and placed under investigation for corruption.
Bo's wife Gu Kailai is waiting 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.
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.
Gu's trial was the latest stage in a scandal that has ended her husband's promising political career and exposed deep divisions among China's leaders ahead of a 10-yearly handover of power that starts later this year.
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," said Joseph Cheng, professor of political science at the City University of Hong Kong.
"[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.
On Friday, security remained tight as Guo Weiguo, Li Yang, Wang Pengfei and Wang Zhi went on trial charged with "abusing the law and practising favouritism".
At one point, police outside the court scuffled with around two dozen journalists after one loudly accused a plain-clothes officer of assaulting him as he rushed to film a bystander being taken away in a police van.—www.shafaqna.com/english