Gu Kailai, wife of deposed Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai, and family aide Zhang Xiaojun were declared guilty on Monday of the intentional homicide of British businessman Neil Heywood. Zhang was sentenced to nine years for his lesser role in the killing, while Gu received a suspended death sentence which, like that of former business tycoon Wu Ying, will likely be commuted to life imprisonment. From Andrew Jacobs at The New York Times:
The verdict and sentence appear to wrap up one of the more lurid chapters of a sweeping scandal that brought down Ms. Gu’s husband, Bo Xilai, and challenged the Communist Party during a politically delicate, once-a-decade leadership transition that is set to culminate in the fall.
[…] Shortly after the verdict, Tang Yigan, deputy director of the Hefei Intermediate People’s Court in Anhui Province, told reporters that the court weighed Ms. Gu’s confession, her testimony that implicated others and the litany of psychological problems she is reported to have suffered. In the end, however, he said Mr. Heywood’s threats in no way justified her crimes.
[…] Legal analysts and political experts said Ms. Gu’s suspended death sentence was most likely calibrated to satisfy the Chinese public and the British government, but also supporters of Mr. Bo, who remains a darling among leftists and certain factions of the leadership enamored of his zealous campaign against organized crime and his efforts to address some of the income disparities that have accompanied three decades of free-market reform.
The British embassy issued a statement welcoming the investigation and trial, at which two of its diplomats were present as observers, and restated its opposition to the execution of Heywood’s killers.
Donald Clarke at China Law Prof Blog explained the probable reality of Gu’s punishment, which could ultimately be reduced to as little
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