China opens murder trial of ousted leader’s wife
HEFEI, China, Aug 9 — China’s most politically sensitive trial in three decades opened today with police dragging two protesters away from a courthouse where the wife of ousted Politburo member Bo Xilai is expected to be swiftly convicted of murder.
The two Bo supporters were dragged kicking and yelling into a police car after they had appeared outside the courthouse in the eastern city of Hefei, singing patriotic songs that were the trademark of Bo’s populist leadership style and condemning the trial as a sham.
“I don’t believe it. This case was decided well in advance,” Hu Jiye, a middle-aged man wearing a T-shirt and baseball cap, told foreign reporters at the rear of the court building.
Hu and his friend were then shoved by police in plainclothes into a car. His companion, also a middle-aged man, struggled, yelling “Why are you taking me? Why are you taking me?”
The trial of Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, is seen by many Chinese as part of a push against Bo, an ambitious populist who made powerful enemies as he campaigned to join the next generation of top central leaders.
Bo was formerly considered a contender for the inner sanctum of power — the party’s Politburo Standing Committee — in a once-in-a-decade leadership transition that is currently underway. The new leadership is expected to be unveiled in October.
Gu and her co-accused, a family aide, are charged with poisoning Briton Neil Heywood last year in a case that has rocked the Communist Party leadership.
A Hefei official told reporters the hearing was likely to end around 11 a.m. (0300 GMT), when a court official would give a statement to reporters. It was not clear if the official was indicating the end of the trial, or simply today’s session.
There was no word when the verdict or sentencing would be announced with estimates ranging from a day or two to several weeks, although most experts expect a quick conviction.
Dozens of policemen threw a security cordon around the court building in Hefei, the capital of Anhui province, with some surrounding streets blocked off with cones.
Entry to the courtroom was restricted but two British diplomats were invited to be present because of the nationality of the victim. Journalists were not being allowed in, and it appeared any coverage would be only from state media outlets.
The British envoys, arriving in heavy rain at the granite-and-glass courthouse, told a scrum of reporters outside the building they would not discuss the case. — Reuters
* British envoys in court