, BEIJING September 18- The verdict in the case of fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai will be issued on Sunday morning, the court that tried him said Wednesday on its verified social media account.
“The Jinan Intermediate People’s Court will openly announce its verdict on the Bo Xilai bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power case on September 22, 2013 at 10 am,” it said on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
Bo, once the top official in the southwestern megacity of Chongqing, fell from grace last year after his police chief fled to a US consulate. His wife was later convicted of the murder of a British businessman.
Bo was once tipped for membership of China’s most powerful political body and his downfall exposed the ruling 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.
In an extraordinary trial last month, Bo vehemently denied the charges against him while the prosecution accused him of corruptly obtaining 26.8 million yuan ($4.4 million) and covering up the killing committed by his wife.
Revelations of private jet flights, luxury villas and gifts of rare animal meats held Chinese Internet users spellbound during the five day trial, with the court’s weibo account gaining more than half a million followers.
Bo’s defiance over the course of the hearings astonished a public unfamiliar with the open airing of top level intrigue and was in stark contrast to previous Chinese political trials, in which most defendants have humbly confessed their crimes in opaque court proceedings.
He dismissed testimony by his wife Gu Kailai as “insane”, launched a scathing attack on his former police chief Wang Lijun as “full of lies and fraud”, and compared another prosecution witness to a “mad dog”.
At the close of the trial prosecutors said Bo’s crimes of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power were “extremely serious” and there were no mitigating factors.
The court is almost certain to find him guilty but his punishment remains in question. The charges against him mean he could be handed a death sentence, but analysts expect him to receive a lengthy prison term.
The son of one of China’s most famous revolutionary leaders, Bo’s populist policies in Chongqing won him supporters across China and he is still thought to have high level allies within the ruling party.
But he also alienated other top party leaders, who saw his brash approach as a return to a bygone era of strongman rule.
The verdict comes as the party attempts to show it is cracking down on corruption and government waste.
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.