China needs up to two months to prepare trial for ex-security czar Zhou Yongkang: Paper

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese prosecutors need up to two months to prepare for the trial of former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang, but despite the high position he held he will be given no special treatment, a state-run newspaper said on Thursday.

Zhou, 72, is the most senior Chinese official to be ensnared in a graft scandal since the Communist Party swept to power in 1949. The decision to prosecute him underscores President Xi Jinping's commitment to fighting graft at the highest levels.

Prosecutors charged him last week with bribery, abuse of power and intentional disclosure of state secrets, paving the way for a trial that could expose the inner workings of the Communist Party. "It is expected to take prosecutors one or two months to prepare," the official China Daily said, without providing a source.

He will be tried in Tianjin, a major city south-east of Beijing. Other high-profile corruption trials have been held in cities with no obvious connection to the accused, to ensure the impartiality of the judge. State media said last month that the authorities would hold an "open trial" to show transparency.

Legal experts say, however, the party runs the risk of Zhou threatening to reveal state secrets, though that part of the trial will likely be kept secret. The party controls the legal system and a court is unlikely to challenge the accusations against him.

Judicial authorities will treat the trial "as an ordinary criminal case and provide him with no special exceptions under the law", the China Daily quoted an unidentified official with the Supreme People's Court as saying.

The paper said Zhou would be able to appeal the outcome of the trial to a higher court in Tianjin if he disagrees with it.

The prosecution team will likely be lead by Mr Bian Xuewen, who was involved in a case against Shanghai's former Communist Party chief Chen Liangyu, who was jailed for 18 years in 2008 for corruption, the paper added.

"The Tianjin procuratorate was assigned to handle the prosecution because the top judicial authorities in Beijing wanted a provincial-level procuratorate with experienced prosecutors and a courthouse with advanced equipment and the ability to accommodate the media," the paper said.

Zhou's trial will also serve as a model for future corruption cases, it added.

Zhou was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee - China's apex of power - and held the post of security tsar until he retired in 2012.

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