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Chinese court agrees to hear Bo Xilai appeal

Fallen Chinese Communist Party star Bo Xilai stands handcuffed in a courtroom flanked by police in Jinan, Shandong, China on September 22, 2013/AFP

Fallen Chinese Communist Party star Bo Xilai stands handcuffed in a courtroom flanked by police in Jinan, Shandong, China on September 22, 2013/AFP

Beijing October 9- 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.

Bo had “refused to accept the decision” at his trial and had 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.

Yet 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.

During the trial, Bo accused Gu of being “insane” and 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”.

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His 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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