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Murder trial for wife of China's Bo Xilai opens

Published on Aug 9, 2012 7:19 AM
File photo shows Bo Xilai (right) and his wife Gu Kailai posing for group photos in Beijing. One of China's highest-profile trials in decades opens on Thursday when the wife of the disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai appears in court charged with murdering a British businessman. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

HEFEI (Anhui) - Hundreds of uniformed and plainclothes police have formed a thick security blanket around a court building here, as a highly sensitive trial opens on Thursday morning with disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai's wife fighting a murder charge.

Bus routes are diverted, roads closed, as strong wind and rain induced by Typhoon Haikui lash at scores of passers-by and journalists hoping to catch a glimpse of Gu Kailai, 53.

The former international lawyer, and her family aide Zhang Xiaojun, 33, are standing trial for the "intentional homicide" of British businessman Neil Heywood last November in Chongqing where Mr Bo ruled as party chief for five years.

Gu was nowhere in sight, but her government-appointed lawyers and British diplomats providing consular services to Mr Heywood's family appeared around 8am to attend the trial, which is open only to approved media and select members of the public.

Observers predict a speedy court proceeding, possibly ending tomorrow, as the Chinese Communist Party seeks a quick end to an embarrassing and divisive saga that has upset preparations for its once-in-a-decade leadership succession later this year.

Mr Bo, thanks to a high-profile Maoist, anti-triad campaign he orchestrated in Chongqing, was a contender for a new, elite Politburo Standing Committee till the scandal, which broke in February when his then-police chief ratted on his wife's role in the alleged murder, scuppered his chances.