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Chinese court agrees to hear Bo Xilai appeal
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Oct 09, 2013

A Chinese court said Wednesday it would hear an appeal by fallen Communist Party star Bo Xilai, who was convicted of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power last month and jailed for life.

Appeals in such high-profile cases are rare in China's tightly controlled courts.

The move could be another act of defiance by the populist ex-politician -- who mounted a feisty defence at his trial -- or could suggest that the ruling party wants to give the impression he has had a fair process.

Bo had "refused to accept the decision" at his trial and submitted an appeal to the Shandong High Court, the court said in a statement on its website.

"This court, upon investigation, decided in accordance with the law to accept."

Bo, the central figure in China's biggest political scandal in decades, was sentenced to life in prison in September by the Intermediate People's Court in Jinan, the provincial capital of Shandong.

His sensational five-day trial earlier offered a rare peek into the family life and dealings of a top politician, exposing bribes, murder and illicit love at the highest levels of power.

The alleged ill-gotten goods included a French villa purchased by a Chinese businessman for Bo's wife Gu Kailai through shell companies managed in part by Briton Neil Heywood --- whom Gu was convicted last year of murdering.

Experts have said an appeal is unlikely to succeed, with the ruling Communist Party retaining strict control over the judiciary.

Many previous corruption trials of top Chinese officials have ended after just one round.

The former mayor of Shanghai Chen Liangyu decided in 2008 not to appeal after being sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Beijing mayor Chen Xitong appealed against a 16-year sentence for corruption in 1998, but it was rejected.

At the proceedings in August, Bo, a member of the party's top 25-member Politburo before his downfall, mounted a spirited defence rarely seen in Chinese courts, where defendants typically quickly admit guilt.

Bo accused Gu of being "insane". He said his former police chief Wang Lijun -- whom he had tried to block from investigating Gu's role in Heywood's death -- of secretly loving her while giving testimony that was "full of lies".

Neither Gu nor Wang, both of whom admitted the charges against them, appealed their convictions in the scandal.

Bo's decision to appeal drags the process out for a further stage, although the Shandong High Court may opt to review the case internally without holding further hearings.

A year and a half passed between Bo's fall and his trial, amid reports that factions at the topmost levels of the ruling party were divided over how to handle the affair.

Authorities allowed an unusual degree of openness for the trial, with the court releasing partial transcripts every day.

But the excerpts were increasingly delayed as the trial progressed, and no independent media were allowed in court to verify their accuracy.

State media has touted Bo's trial as evidence of China's leaders fulfilling a pledge to tackle official corruption even at the highest levels. But observers suspect a political motive for toppling the charismatic politician.

Bo had been a popular figure in some quarters, with an unusually open and charismatic style, but some political leaders feared his ambition would challenge party unity.


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