Suspended death sentence for Bo Xilai's wife

The wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai has been given a suspended death sentence for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.

Gu Kailai and her aide, Zhang Xiaojun, did not contest the charges against them
Gu Kailai and her aide, Zhang Xiaojun, did not contest the charges against them

A Chinese court has confirmed handing down a suspended death sentence for Gu Kailai, the wife of fallen politician Bo Xilai, for murdering a British businessman.

Zhang Xiaojun, a Bo family aide who admitted to helping Gu with Neil Heywood's murder last November, received a nine-year jail sentence, according to court sources.

A statement to this effect from Tang Yigan, an official with the Hefei Intermediate Court in eastern China, followed earlier comments from witnesses who had attended Monday's closed-door hearing.

Suspended death sentences are normally commuted to sentences of up to 25 years or life in prison, subject to good behaviour in prison for two years. .

Tang said at a media briefing that It remains unclear whether Bo himself will be implicated.

Four police officers who worked under Bo Xilai in Chongqing and who were tried by the Hefei court earlier this month, were found guilty of covering up the killing, Tang said.

He said the four - named as Guo Weiguo, Li Yang, Wang Pengfei and Wang Zhi - were sentenced to between five and 11 years in jail.

They had been charged with trying to conceal Gu's involvement in Heywood's death by "forging interview scripts and hiding evidence".

"We respect today's decision," He Zhengsheng, who represented Heywood's family, said.

The sentence of death with a two-year suspension means that if Gu commits no crimes while in prison, her sentence will be commuted after two years to life imprisonment and could be further reduced for good behaviour, Chinese legal expert Professor Donald Clarke writes in his blog.

Chinese internet users reacted immediately to the verdict on Twitter-like microblogging platforms.

With key names connected to the case still apparently censored, most used the phrase "suspended death sentence". Within two hours, there were at least two million posts.

Many users expressed dissatisfaction, saying most murderers in China would be executed. Some attributed it to Gu's background, others suggested she could eventually be freed under medical parole.

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