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Bo Xilai's trial adjourns abruptly in China

August 25, 2013 14:56 IST

Disgraced Chinese leader Bo Xilai's high-profile trial was abruptly adjourned after prosecutors produced more evidence to nail the former Communist strongman, who in turn described his ex-police chief and a key witness as a "liar with extremely bad character."

Bo, 64, was sacked as the head of the Chongqing city last year and removed from the ruling party following allegations of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power against him.

The Jinan Intermediate People's Court in east China's Shandong province, which is hearing the case regarded as the most sensitive after the 1981 'Gang of Four' trial' involving Mao Zedong's widow, adjourned the hearing till tomorrow after over two hours of proceedings on the fourth day.

At the dramatic trial, prosecutors presented more evidence on the charge of power abuse against the fallen politician, a spokesman of the court told media in Jinan. During the past three days court held session for the entire day spanning to about eight hours a day but today it lasted over two hours.

Footage shown by state-run CCTV displayed two policemen taking Bo out of the court room holding his arms.

Evidence showed that Bo ordered the investigation against officials in-charge of handling the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood allegedly by his wife Gu Kailai, who was sentenced to death last year with two year reprieve after she confessed to the murder.

Bo violated organisational procedures to remove police chief Chongqing city Wang Lijun from his post after he started probing Gu's involvement, prosecutors alleged.

The evidence also showed that Bo allowed his wife, who was not a civil servant, to take part in discussions about how to handle Wang's defection, and sanctioned her suggestion to ask a hospital to fake a diagnosis that Wang had mental illness as well as the release of such false information to the public, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Bo admitted that he made mistakes in handling these incidents but insisted that he was not involved in any conducts of power abuse and the responsibilities were all on his wife and a third participant surnamed Wu.

Bo said, "His (Wang's) character is extremely bad, he created rumours... and threw dust in the public's eyes. It's beneath legal credibility to present such a person as a key witness. Wang Lijun was lying during the trial and his testimony was not valid at all. His testimony was full of lies and fraud."

The prosecutors today also presented evidence on how Bo's case was exposed and investigated and that he neither turn himself in nor confessed his crimes.

Speculation is rife that Bo may get a suspended death sentence like his wife.

A charismatic Bo, widely expected to be a front runner for a top post in the once-in-a-decade leadership change of the ruling Communist Party of China, was sacked last year as the Party head of over 20 million people strong Chongqing city as well as Party's highest policy making body -- the Politburo.

During the hearing, prosecution and defence cross-examined the testimony of Wang Lijun, who defected to US Consulate in Chengdu last year after tiff with Bo over the involvement of Gu in Heywood's murder in 2011.

The murder was initially recorded as death but later turned out that Gu poisoned him following differences over management of Bo's assets and money stashed abroad.

The trial took a dramatic turn after Wang told the court how Bo punched him when he confronted him with his wife's involvement in Heywood's murder.

Wang, serving a 15-year prison term for his act to take asylum in US Consulate as well as bribery and other crimes, gave gripping account seated just a few metres from Bo, their first face-to-face encounter since February last year.

The drama was heightened further when Bo cross-examined his former confidant, whom he described as "two-faced".

Wang testified that Bo's violent response to his accusation against Gu left him fearful for his safety.

"He suddenly threw a punch and hit my left ear and it was not just a slap," state-run China Daily quoted Wang as saying.

"I found my mouth was bleeding, and something was flowing out of my ears... After (Bo smashed a cup), he tried to attack me again but was stopped by Wu (a local official)."

Bo responded by saying, "Wang said I hit him with my fist instead of slapping him in the face. But the truth is I never learned the technique of Chinese boxing so I wouldn't be able to have that power. 

The proceedings were displayed in the form of transcripts on the court's microblog account, akin to twitter.

Wang, 53, told the prosecutors that, by attacking him in front of two other officials, Bo was threatening them into silence about Gu's involvement in Heywood's murder.

Wang also said Bo repeatedly asked him to protect his son Bo Guagua, who was studying in the United States.

Gu had told court in a video deposition that Heywood threatened the safety of her son. Heywood was the middleman managing Bo's assets abroad including a villa in France.

Wang justified his defection to American Consulate, saying he had no choice.

"It was very dangerous for me at the time," said Wang during his 90-minute appearance in court.

"First, I was treated with violence. Then, people who worked for me and the investigators on the case all disappeared," the South China Morning Post quoted the transcripts as saying.

Bo, who gave his own version of events before Wang entered the court, admitted errors in judgment, but took issue with his long time subordinate's account and bombarded him with questions to punch holes in Wang's testimony.

Bo said he had trouble accepting Wang's claims against Gu because the relationship between the pair was "extremely good".

"Gu in my memory was a gentle lady. She couldn't have killed somebody. And she was on very good terms with Wang," said Bo, who earlier dismissed allegations of bribery and embezzlement against his wife as "nonsense and laughable".

In one of the most dramatic exchanges, Bo questioned Wang directly: "What do you think was the reason that I forced you out? To cover up the November 15 murder case?"

Wang replied, "Yes".

Admitting he slapped Wang, Bo said he felt ashamed by his flight to the consulate because it reflected badly on the country and the CPC.

"I bear some responsibility for Wang Lijun's flight and I feel very sorry for this. But whether there was a crime or not is another matter. I did not act illegally to show favouritism and protect Gu," he said, according to a court transcript.

Earlier in the day, Bo continued spirited defence of himself, dismissing accounts that he embezzled five million yuan from a construction company in Dalian in the northeast, where he was formerly mayor.

The prosecutors played video and audio of Gu's statement to counter his denials. They also presented Bo's admission and his written statement as evidence that he suggested five million yuan of project funds was remitted to the bank account designated by Gu.

Bo claimed he did not intend to embezzle the funds, but said he should bear some responsibility for not having closely questioned the remittance.

Bo also admitted he had committed adultery.

"I was unfaithful. She got furious and moved to the UK with Guagua... largely to get back at me," Bo said, describing his wife's reaction to his infidelity.

Bo said Gu has a strong personality and she never complained to him about being short of money.

Gu had testified that Bo knew she had received a large sum from Wang Zhenggang, in-charge of the projects in Dalian.

The court said Bo has hired two lawyers who defended him in the court besides cross examining witnesses.

K J M Varma in Beijing
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