Court In China Hands Suspended Death Sentence To Gu Kailai
August 20, 2012
A court in China has convicted Gu Kailai, the wife of a disgraced Communist Party leader, of intentional homicide and handed her a suspended death sentence for murdering a British businessman.
In China, a suspended death sentence is usually commuted to life in prison after a few years.
The verdict in China's most high-profile trial in years came in the eastern city of Hefei.
Chinese state media reported that Gu had admitted at a one-day trial held on August 9 to poisoning Neil Heywood in November 2011.
Gu and her husband, Bo Xilai, had business dealings with Heywood.
She reportedly claimed she had suffered a mental breakdown and that Heywood had threatened her son amid a row over a property deal.
Sentenced along with Gu Kailai was a family aide who was given nine years in prison for his involvement in the murder. Zhang had also confessed after being charged as an accessory.
Two British diplomats were allowed to attend the trial, but foreign journalists were not present in the courtroom.
Following the verdicts, Britain's embassy in Beijing said it welcomed the "fact that the Chinese authorities have investigated the death of Neil Heywood and tried those they identified as responsible."
It did not comment specifically on the sentences but said in a statement: "We consistently made clear to the Chinese authorities that we wanted to see the trials in this case conform to international human rights standards and for the death penalty not to be applied."
At a separate trial on August 10, four senior police officers admitted charges of covering up evidence linking Gu to the murder. Heywood's death was initially recorded as a heart attack.
The killing sparked a political scandal and brought down Gu's husband, Bo, who had been tipped to become one of the ruling Communist Party's top leaders in a power handover later this year.
State media reports say Bo, who was the party chief in Chongqing, has been stripped of his official posts and is being investigated for "discipline violations."
With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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