China sets date for Gu Kailai verdict

A combination photograph shows British businessman Neil Heywood, left, at an Aston Martin dealership in Beijing in May 26, 2010 and Gu Kailai, wife of China's former Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai, at a mourning for her father-in-law Bo Yibo, in Beijing on 17 January, 2007 Ms Gu, right, is accused of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood

The verdict in the murder trial of the wife of former high-flying Chinese politician Bo Xilai will be delivered on Monday, Chinese officials say.

Gu Kailai was tried for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in Hefei city, Anhui province, on 9 August.

A court official told reporters Ms Gu had not contested allegations that she killed Mr Heywood by poisoning.

Mr Heywood was found dead at a hotel in Chongqing in November 2011.

"On Monday the court will reconvene and announce the verdict and sentence," Zhang Mingwu, deputy director of the information office of Anhui province, told AFP news.

A court spokeswoman said the verdict was scheduled for 09:00 local time (01:00GMT), Reuters news agency reported.

Ms Gu was tried along with her aide, Zhang Xiaojun, who was described by the court as an accomplice.

The two defendants face a possible death penalty if found guilty.

TIMELINE: BO XILAI SCANDAL

  • 6 Feb: Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun flees to the US consulate in Chengdu
  • 15 Mar: Bo Xilai is removed from his post in Chongqing
  • 20 Mar: Rumours suggest Mr Bo could be linked to the death of British businessman Neil Heywood
  • 10 Apr: Bo Xilai is suspended from party posts and his wife, Gu Kailai, is investigated over Mr Heywood's death
  • 26 July: Gu Kailai and Bo family employee Zhang Xiaojun are charged with killing Mr Heywood
  • 9 Aug: Gu Kailai goes on trial for murder

Analysts say given the reports a guilty verdict appears almost certain, but point to suggestions in state media that Ms Gu may have been trying to protect her son as signs her case could be treated with a degree of leniency.

Political death

The scandal surrounding Ms Gu, herself a prominent lawyer, appears to have ended Mr Bo's political career.

Bo Xilai was the Communist party chief in the city of Chongqing but was sacked in March and is currently under investigation for unspecified "disciplinary violations". He has not been mentioned in Ms Gu's case.

The trial and verdict come as China prepares to install a new generation of leaders at a once-in-a-decade congress to be held in the next two or three months.

Seven members of the nine-strong politburo Standing Committee are due to retire.

Bo Xilai was once thought to be a key candidate for promotion to the top leadership, but has not been seen in public since the investigation into his wife was announced.

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