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Rediff.com  » News » Chinese court upholds life sentence for Bo Xilai

Chinese court upholds life sentence for Bo Xilai

Last updated on: October 25, 2013 10:54 IST

A Chinese high court on Friday rejected the appeal of disgraced Communist Party leader Bo Xilai and upheld his life sentence for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power in the country's biggest political scandal.

"The Shandong higher people's court rejected the appeal and upheld the first instance life sentence verdict on Bo's bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power case," state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

In September, the Jinan intermediate court had sentenced the 64-year-old former Politburo member and Chongqing city Communist Party chief to life in prison on the graft charges, 15 years for embezzlement and seven years for abuse of power.

Unlike the lower court, which conducted the "open trial" for about five days in August, there were no reports of any hearing by the high court.

The court reportedly scrutinised the evidence placed by the prosecution and upheld the life sentence. The rejection meant that Bo, who was regarded a rebel trying to resurrect the hardline Maoist ideology, exhausted all legal option and begin to serve his life sentence, which experts say could come up for review after 14 years.

There was no official report about where he would be lodged. A charismatic Bo, widely expected to be front runner for a top post in the once-in-a-decade leadership change of the ruling Communist Party last year, was expected to be housed at a separate jail for convicted Communist Party officials which was stated to be more like a guest house with all facilities.

His wife Gu Kailai is also imprisoned as she was given a suspended death sentence last year for her involvement in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.

Earlier, Bo effectively made use of the first ever open trial to counter charges stretching the one day trial to five days garnering local and international publicity. He did not accept his sentence saying it was unfair and unjust.

Bo, who held many top posts including as the commerce minister, was found guilty of taking bribes totaling 20.44 million yuan (about $3.3 million) either personally or through his family members, between 1999 and 2012.

The intermediate court also convicted Bo of stealing five million yuan of government funds. He was also convicted for abuse of power to save his wife from investigations.

Bo's intervention into his wife's case prompted Wang Lijun, the police chief and vice mayor of Chongqing city, to defect and seek refuge in US consulate in Chengdu.

After successfully sealing Bo's fate, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who also headed the CPC and the military, has set up a special unit for a probe into former head of internal security Zhou Yongkang.

Zhou, regarded as the "God father" of Bo, was the ninth ranking member of the nine-member standing committee of the party headed by former President Hu Jintao.

Zhou retired along with Hu and all other top leaders of the previous regime in the once-in-a-decade leadership change in November last year.

The committee, stated to be a platform for CPC's collective leadership, is China's top governing body. The present Standing Committee, headed by Xi, has seven members.

Beijing police chief Fu Zhenghua will head the investigative unit against Zhou and report directly to Xi, rather than CPC's discipline commission, an earlier report in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post said.

Zhou will be the highest party leader in recent years to face the probe into omissions and commission of his longstanding stint at the helm.

Ahead of the probe, several officials at state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. have been removed. Probe against Zhou, who was connected closely with country's most lucrative oil industry, stated to be a rare phenomenon as the party never touched the retired leaders.

Since taking over power, Xi has launched a nation wide drive against corruption saying that both "Tigers and Flies" namely big and small officials should be probed and punished.

A number of officials faced probes in different parts of the country some even got suspended death sentences. The government has projected the trial against Bo as symbol  of its attempt to cleanse the party and country of corruption.

K J M Varma in Beijing
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