The conclusion of Gu Kailai’s trial will be a step toward closing a scandal that has rocked the Chinese leadership at a sensitive time when it is preparing to hand over power to younger leaders. But even after the verdict is announced, questions will remain over the fate of her husband, Bo Xilai, a prominent figure who was dismissed in March as party secretary of the major city of Chongqing.
Gu is accused of killing Briton Neil Heywood, a former Bo family associate. State media say the two had a dispute over money and Heywood allegedly threatened her son. A family aide has been charged as an accessory.
State media say Gu confessed to intentional homicide, for which the penalty ranges from 10 years in prison to death. One option is a suspended death sentence that can be commuted later to a long prison term.
Chinese courts regularly impose death sentences for murder, rape and some nonviolent crimes.
Any ruling will be politically delicate, and Chinese leaders might have decided to impose a lengthy prison term instead of death for fear that a more severe penalty might stir outrage or make Gu look like a scapegoat for her husband’s misdeeds, political and legal analysts say. The party says Bo was removed due to unspecified violations.