Gu murder trial takes just hours
China's most politically sensitive trial in three decades ended in just about seven hours today after the wife of ousted Politburo member Bo Xilai did not contest charges of murdering a British businessman, a court official said.
The verdict in the case of Gu Kailai, who is accused along with an orderly from her home of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood, will be announced at a later date, Tang Yigan, vice president of the Hefei Intermediate People's Court, told reporters today.
A verdict will be delivered at a later date.
"The accused Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun did not dispute the facts of the crime and the intentional homicide charge," Mr Tang said.
"During the process of the hearing, Gu Kailai was in good physical condition, and was emotionally stable."
The official said the court was told Mr Zhang, the family aide, had put poison in a drink of water that Ms Gu then gave to Mr Heywood who was drunk at the time. His body was found last November in a hotel in Chongqing, the city where Mr Bo was the Communist Party chief.
Ms Gu and Mr Zhang face the death penalty if convicted. But many legal experts expect Gu will be convicted but only sentenced to a lengthy jail term.
China's state-run media has said that the trial will strengthen the Chinese people's confidence in the legal system, showing that nobody is above the law regardless of their status or power.
While that message is aimed at bolstering trust in the ruling Communist Party ahead of a once-in-a-decade leadership transition later this year, few will be convinced that politics have not played a role.
Entry to the courtroom was restricted but two British diplomats were invited to be present because of the nationality of the victim. Journalists were not being allowed in, and it appeared any coverage would be only from state media outlets.
The British envoys, arriving in heavy rain at the granite-and-glass courthouse, told a scrum of reporters outside the building they would not discuss the case.
Two Bo supporters were dragged kicking and yelling into a police car after they had appeared outside the courthouse in the eastern city of Hefei, singing patriotic songs that were the trademark of Mr Bo's populist leadership style and condemning the trial as a sham.
"I don't believe it. This case was decided well in advance," Hu Jiye, a middle-aged man wearing a T-shirt and baseball cap, told foreign reporters at the rear of the court building.
Mr Hu and his friend were then shoved by plain clothed police into a car. His companion, also a middle-aged man, struggled, yelling "Why are you taking me? Why are you taking me?"
The trial of Ms Gu, glamorous daughter of the ruling Communist Party aristocracy, is the most sensational since the conviction of the Gang of Four more than 30 years ago for crimes during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.
But despite British calls for the case to be handled fairly and to unearth the truth around Mr Heywood's death, her defence has instead been entrusted to two provincial lawyers.
State censorship of internet chatter on the trial was swifter than normal today, with users of China's popular Twitter-like service Sina Weibo playing cat and mouse with censors to discuss the case, using word play to try and get around the controls.