BEIJING (Reuters) - A court in eastern China said it would announce a decision on Friday on whether to accept an appeal by ousted former senior politician Bo Xilai over his guilty verdict and life sentence on charges of bribery, corruption and abuse of power.
Bo, once a rising star in China’s leadership circles who had cultivated a following through his populist, quasi-Maoist policies, was jailed for life in September after a dramatic fall from grace that shook the ruling Communist Party.
His career was stopped short last year by a murder scandal in which his wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of poisoning a British businessman, Neil Heywood, who had been a family friend.
In a brief statement posted on its website, the high court in the eastern province of Shandong, where Bo was first tried, said the decision would be announced on Friday at 10 a.m. It gave no other details.
Bo’s guilty verdict is unlikely to be overturned as the courts are controlled by the Communist Party, which long ago pronounced him guilty. A source with direct knowledge of the case told Reuters it was unclear if Bo’s sentence might be reduced.
“There is that possibility,” said the source, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The source earlier had said that Bo appealed immediately after the sentence was announced. The court said in early October that it had formally accepted the appeal.
President Xi Jinping, who took office in March, will likely want the Bo affair settled because the next few weeks are critical for his government.
At a closed-door party plenum next month, Xi will push for more economic reforms and he needs unstinting support from the party’s elite 200-member Central Committee.
Bo, 64, who was Communist Party chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, mounted an unexpectedly fiery defense during his trial, denouncing testimony against him by his wife as the ravings of a mad woman hoping to have her own sentence reduced.
He repeatedly said that he was not guilty of any of the charges, though he admitted making some bad decisions and shaming his country by his handling of former Chongqing police chief, Wang Lijun, who first told Bo that Gu had probably murdered Heywood.
Wang, who fled to the U.S. consulate in the nearby city of Chengdu in February last year after confronting Bo with evidence that Gu was involved in the murder, was also jailed last year for covering up the crime.
Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie