Bo attacks credibility of one-time confidant

Bo Xilai challenged former police chief Wang Lijun's testimony on Sunday that he had punched the policeman when he told him that his wife Gu Kailai was a murder suspect. It was a slap, he said. "I haven't learnt boxing."

CHINA - Seizing the chance to defend himself publicly, former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai tore into the credibility of a confidantturned- betrayer, as China's most-watched court trial looks to end on Monday.

"This person's character is extremely vile... To have him as a key witness means that the law loses credibility," said Bo of his former police chief Wang Lijun, who had testified against him.

Bo, 64, has denied using his powers illegally to stop an investigation into a murder by his wife Gu Kailai after Wang tipped him off about it in late January last year.

A former member of the Communist Party's elite 25-man Politburo, Bo also faces charges for embezzling and taking bribes amounting to nearly 27 million yuan (S$5.6 million).

A Jinan court said on Sunday that both the prosecution and defence have finished presenting and examining evidence. This means the trial will likely wrap up on Monday, with closing arguments by both sides, lawyers told The Straits Times.

But the verdict may take at least another week, going by the trial of Wang, who was sentenced to 15 years' jail last September for crimes including graft and defection.

Sunday's highlight was Bo's challenge of Wang's testimony that he had punched the policeman when he told him that Gu was a suspect in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in November 2011.

The court also saw a medical report that said Wang had suffered damage to his left eardrum.

But it was a slap, said Bo.

"I haven't learnt boxing and I don't have so much strength," he said, according to almost realtime court transcripts posted by the Jinan court on its Twitter-like Weibo microblog.

Bo's lawyer also argued that Wang's testimony was not objective as he had an axe to grind against Bo, who had stripped him of his Chongqing police chief job.

The court posted three transcripts of Sunday's session, which ended by noon. One included testimony from Chongqing mayor Huang Qifan - one of the few officials to keep his job in the municipality - that Bo abused his power in sacking Wang.

While the trial has won praise for its unprecedented use of online updates, there are still signs of censorship.

For instance, the transcripts left out how Bo said in court last Friday that he had been interrogated hundreds of times and fainted 27 times, said The New York Times on Sunday, citing two sources close to the Bo family who were briefed about the trial.

Also left out was how Bo had said he confessed to a bribery charge last year to protect his wife and their son Guagua, said the paper.

But some observers said the online updates point nevertheless to improved transparency and noted that Bo has had ample chance to defend himself, with the trial lasting longer than expected.

"Bo Xilai's court performance is not bad at all. From what we can see, he has not been flustered and his line of thought is lucid," said Beijing lawyer Hao Jinsong.

But while Bo has won greater public support after his spirited showing, a conviction is still a given as the Communist Party controls the courts. Most expect Bo to get between 15 years' jail and a suspended death sentence.

"China is not a country where there's rule of law. I don't think (his performance) will make much of a difference," said Mr Hao.

His defiance may even lead to a heavier punishment. As lawyer Mo Shaoping noted: "If the attitude of the accused is bad, prosecutors can recommend a heavier sentence."

Prosecution's accusation and Bo's defence

Accepting bribes

Prosecution's charge: You made use of your posts to exchange favours for bribes.

You took 1.1 million yuan (S$230,000) from former colleague Tang Xiaolin.

You also accepted through your wife and son, 20.6 million yuan in money and gifts like a French villa from Dalian Shide group boss Xu Ming.

Bo's defence: I did not take bribes from Tang.

I also did not know that Xu gave money and expensive presents to my wife and son.

Embezzlement

Prosecution: You pocketed five million yuan of public funds in Dalian city through your wife Gu Kailai.

Bo: I did not intend to take the money, which my family did not need, as my wife was a successful lawyer.

But I admit that the money did go to my wife and I failed to stop this.

Abuse of power

Prosecution: You used your power as Chongqing party boss to cover up a murder committed by your wife. You also sacked police chief Wang Lijun without permission.

Bo: I did not bend the law to protect Gu. I did not sack Wang but reassigned him for the sake of his health.


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