Bo Xilai trial: Trial of disgraced former Chinese politician Bo Xilai begins
China's most sensational court trial in decades has begun.
Former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai made his first public appearance in 17 months on Thursday to face criminal charges, as the Communist Party seeks to close the chapter on the divisive and controversial politician.
The ex-Politburo member, who has not been seen since his sacking in March last year, is accused of abuse of power in covering his wife Gu Kailai's murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in November 2011.
A former commerce minister and mayor of north-eastern Dalian city, Bo, 64, also faces charges of taking bribes and embezzling funds totalling 25 million yuan (S$5.18 million).
His trial is taking place in eastern Jinan city, Shandong province, where more than 100 journalists are jostling for space alongside Bo supporters and curious locals outside the Jinan Intermediate People's Court.
A political blueblood once seen as a contender for the Communist Party's apex Politburo Standing Committee, Bo is certain to be convicted given that the courts are under the party's control.
He faces a possible death penalty though observers believe his eventual punishment ranges between a 15-year jail term and a suspended death sentence, depending on how cooperative he is.
The key thing to watch during the trial is thus whether Bo will challenge the charges against him.
"Usually accused persons will not admit to all the charges against them. If Bo does not dispute any of the charges, then probably it's a sign that a deal has been reached beforehand," Beijing-based lawyer Mo Shaoping told The Straits Times.
Another talking point will be whether his wife Gu, who was given a suspended death sentence last September, will turn up in court to testify against him.
Bo is the third Politburo member ever to be charged with graft, following the fate of former Beijing mayor Chen Xitong and ex-Shanghai boss Chen Liangyu.
The court hearing is expected to last at most two days. A verdict is expected in early September, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.