Fallen Chinese political star to be tried Thursday

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(AP)

Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai will stand trial on Thursday as he faces corruption charges, bribery and the abuse of power.

The former party secretary of the major city of Chongqing fell from power last year in China’s messiest scandal in decades. It exposed the murder of a British businessman by Bo’s wife and a thwarted defection bid by his former police chief.

Bo will stand trial in the Intermediate People’s Court of the eastern city of Jinan on charges of taking bribes, embezzlement and abuse of power, said a one-sentence announcement on the court’s microblog account.

Most trials in China last less than one day and Bo, 64, is almost certain to be convicted.

His wife Gu Kailai was tried last August and found guilty of poisoning British businessman, Neil Heywood in a hotel villa in Chongqing in November 2011. She received a death sentence with a reprieve. Bo Xilai was expelled from the Communist Party in September 2012, when the authorities began a formal criminal investigation.

His downfall followed a failed defection attempt by his police chief at a U.S. consulate, which embarrassed Chinese leaders. The chief exposed a litany of complaints against Bo that gave political rivals ammunition to attack him.

“The indictment was finally announced, this means that some sort of agreement was reached between the Politburo’s Central Committee and Bo Xilai. It means that a compromise and understanding on key matters must have been reached among factions,” said lawyer and scholar Zhang Sizhi.

Bo’s case was the last major unfinished business from the once-a-decade handover of power that began last November. Holding his trial now means the new leadership can wrap up the scandal before they head into a party meeting later this year that is meant to produce a blueprint for China’s economic development.

The outcomes of criminal cases against senior figures such as Bo are usually decided in advance in secret negotiations aimed at securing the defendant’s cooperation. Bo is only the third politician at Politburo level to be tried on graft charges in recent decades.

“It is a sign of progress to decide to shift towards a system run by the rule of law, and to try to solve matters within the law. Even if it does not work completely in the reality, even if it is just a motto, historically this is still a sign of progress,” added Sizhi.

The party also wants to present a spectacle of justice for the Chinese public and a warning to ambitious politicians not to defy the central leadership.

Official announcements about the charges against Bo have given no details.

But a person with direct knowledge of the case said Bo is accused of accepting bribes amounting to more than 20 (m) million yuan (3.3 (m) million US dollars) and embezzling 5 (m) million yuan (820-thousand US dollars) while he was in a previous post in the eastern city of Dalian.

(Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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