Gu Kailai set to go on trial for the murder of Neil Heywood next Thursday
Gu Kailai, wife of controversial Chinese politician Bo Xilai, will go on trial for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood next Thursday.
Prosecutors announced last week that Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun, employed at Bo Xilai’s home, had been charged with intentional homicide.
Neil Heywood was found dead in a hotel in Chongqing on 15 November 2011.
The alleged murder of Neil Heywood triggered Bo Xilai’s downfall in a scandal that has rocked Chinese politics.
The trial is expected to take place in the eastern city of Hefei, even though the crime allegedly took place hundreds of miles to the west in the city of Chongqing.
Legal experts have previously said that authorities would have had concerns about the political influence Bo Xilai and his family may still exert in Chongqing and whether that would affect a fair trial.
Local officials initially said Neil Heywood died of excessive drinking, but the government announced in April it was investigating Bo Xilai’s wife in connection with the case.
The exact nature of Neil Heywood’s role and his relations with Bo Xilai’s family have been the subject of much speculation inside and outside China. At the very least, there were close business contacts between the Bo family and Neil Heywood.
Bo Xilai, the former high-flying leader of the south-western Chinese megacity of Chongqing, was sacked in March and is under investigation for allegedly flouting Communist Party rules.
He made his name tackling corruption in Chongqing and had been expected to be elected to an important position during the once-in-a-decade leadership change due at the Communist Party congress this autumn.
Analysts say the authorities are keen to resolve the case quickly before China undergoes that politically sensitive transition.
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