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Chinese court to issue verdict in Bo Xilai corruption trial on Sunday

By Steven Jiang and Jethro Mullen, CNN
September 18, 2013 -- Updated 1120 GMT (1920 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The verdict will be announced Sunday morning, the court says
  • The closely watched trial took place in Shandong province last month
  • Bo, a former top official, faces charges of corruption, embezzlement, abuse of power
  • The overwhelming majority of Chinese criminal cases result in guilty verdicts

Beijing (CNN) -- A court in eastern China said it will deliver the much anticipated verdict in the corruption trial of fallen high-flying politician Bo Xilai on Sunday.

The Jinan Intermediate People's Court in the province of Shandong said Wednesday on its official microblog account that the verdict would be pronounced at 10 a.m. local time on Sunday.

During the hearings of the politically sensitive trial that took place last month, Bo strongly challenged the prosecution's case against him, according to accounts published by the court.

The closely watched trial was considered to be much more transparent than most cases in China. But international and independent journalists weren't allowed inside the courtroom, and doubts were raised about the fullness of the court's version of events.

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Bo, 64, is charged with bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

High conviction rate

His trial brought to light a wealth of eye-opening details about the apparently lavish and emotionally fraught life of his family and inner circle, giving Chinese people insights into how some of the ruling elite live.

Bo's glittering career, during which he drew both admirers and detractors for his populist policies, fell apart last year amid a scandal involving murder, betrayal and financial skullduggery.

Based on the track record of Chinese courts, Bo appears likely to be convicted.

The conviction rate at criminal trials and their appeals in China -- where the ruling Communist Party controls police, prosecution and courts -- stood at 99.9% in 2010, a U.S. State Department report cited the Supreme People's Court as saying.

If he is found guilty, he will also probably find out his punishment. Chinese courts usually announce sentencing straight after guilty verdicts. Prosecutors have asked for a heavy sentence for the former senior official.

Dramatic downfall

The son of a revolutionary veteran, Bo rose to power as a city mayor, provincial governor, minister of commerce and member of the Politburo, the powerful policymaking body of the Communist Party. He had been tipped to ascend farther up the party hierarchy.

A charismatic and urbane politician, Bo was credited with a spectacular, albeit brutal, crackdown on organized crime during his time as the top party official of Chongqing, a metropolis in southwestern China.

But when his deputy, Wang Lijun, walked into the U.S. Consulate in the city of Chengdu in February of last year and told American diplomats that Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, was an accomplice in a murder case, Bo's career began to unravel.

Wang's move precipitated Bo's political demise. Soon after news of the events began to emerge, Bo was removed from his party posts.

A court found Gu guilty last year of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood in a Chongqing hotel room in 2011. A family employee, Zhang Xiaojun, was also convicted in the killing and sentenced to nine years in prison.

The following month, Wang was convicted of bending the law for selfish ends, defection, abuse of power and bribe-taking. He received a 15-year prison sentence.

Wang and Gu both appeared as witnesses at Bo's trial last month. Bo attacked their testimony and even claimed that Wang and Gu had been romantically involved.

CNN'sSteven Jiang reported from Beijing and Jethro Mullen wrote from Hong Kong.

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