, BEIJING, July 24 – The trial of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai set to be China’s highest profile political prosecution in decades will be held in August, a source with direct knowledge of the case told AFP on Wednesday.
“I think it will be in the middle or the end of August,” the source, who asked to remain anonymous, said, when asked when the trial would take place. Bo is likely to face charges of bribery and abuse of power.
The former party boss of southwestern megacity Chongqing was ousted from the ruling Communist party last year, after the government accused him of accepting “massive” bribes and bending the law, following his wife’s conviction for the murder of a British businessman.
His downfall exposed the Communist party to allegations of corruption at a senior level, adding to divisions ahead of a once in a decade leadership transition which saw Xi Jinping installed as party chief in November.
News of the trial comes at a time when the Communist Party is attempting to show it is cracking down on corruption and government waste.
Bo’s trial will take place in Jinan, the capital of eastern China’s Shandong province, the South China Morning Post Newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing official sources in Chongqing.
Officials in the city met “to detail formal charges” against Bo ahead of the trial, the newspaper reported.
According to Chinese law, criminal charges must be served at least 10 days before a trial begins. No reports that Bo has been served with an official criminal charge have surfaced in China’s state run media, though it is possible that charges have been served in secret.
China’s official media earlier reported that Bo’s case had been passed over to legal authorities, following an internal party investigation which resulted in his expulsion.
Bo, the son of one of China’s most famous revolutionary leaders, is still thought to have high level allies within the party and his trial is likely to be short and tightly staged managed, with the result decided in advance as a result of behind the scenes political bargaining.
If he is charged with bribery he could face the death penalty.
Prior to his ousting, Bo was one of China’s top 25 ranking officials, who form the party’s Politburo. The last former Politburo member to be tried for corruption, Chen Liangyu, received an 18 year prison term in 2008.
Bo was once seen as a candidate for promotion to the party’s very top echelon the Politburo Standing Committee. But he was detained after his police chief, Wang Lijun, sought refuge in a US consulate following a dispute with Bo early in 2012.
Bo cultivated an unusually populist public image and led a high profile anti mafia campaign in Chongqing, which resulted in scores of arrests but led to allegations of the use of torture against suspects.
He also revived some elements of 1960s Communist Party culture as part of a “sing red” campaign involving massive rallies, which drew comparisons with China’s tumultuous Cultural Revolution period.
Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, was given a suspended death sentence last summer a judgement commonly commuted to a life sentence for fatally poisoning British businessman Neil Heywood, who had been a friend of Bo’s family.
Former police chief Wang was sentenced to 15 years in prison in September for defection and other crimes.
China’s government said last year that Bo had “borne major responsibility” in connection with the murder of Heywood and would “face justice” for alleged abuse of power.
It also said he had taken “massive” bribes and had indulged in inappropriate sexual relations with “multiple women”.
Bo has not been seen in public for more than a year, and his current whereabouts have not been made public.
He has appointed two lawyers for the trial, both of whom are members of a law firm which has close ties to the ruling party.