薄谷开来故意杀人罪被判死缓 - By Malcolm Moore, in Hefei and Tom Phillips,20 Aug 2012
Gu Kailai given suspended death sentence
The wife of the disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai has been given a two-year suspended death sentence for the murder of Neil Heywood.
A Chinese court ruled that Gu Kailai, 52, had prepared a solution of cyanide hydrochloride and used it to poison Mr Heywood, 42, in a hotel room in Chongqing last November.
“Her crime was enormous and its outcome was severe. She played the major role, and should be sentenced to death,” said Tang Yigan, the vice chief of the Intermediate People’s Court in the central city of Hefei, where the trial took place.
However, the court explained it had suspended the sentence in light of Gu’s mental state, her admissions of guilt and remorse, and her cooperation with the investigation.
Gu, a former lawyer, will now serve a minimum of 14 years in prison.
Her death penalty is likely to be commuted to life imprisonment after two years of good behaviour, and further good behaviour could see her sentence reduced again.
She has also been stripped of her “political rights”, including her freedom of speech. An aide in her household, 33-year-old Zhang Xiaojun, was sentenced to nine years in prison for helping Gu carry out the crime.
Gu confessed to the murder and accepted the prosecution’s version of events in a seven-hour trial on August 9. She claimed she had suffered a “mental breakdown” last November and believed Mr Heywood intended to harm, or even kill, her 24-year-old son, Bo Guagua, over a soured property deal.
According to the court, she sent Zhang to bring Mr Heywood to Chongqing and then got him drunk in a hotel room on Royal Salute whisky and green tea. After he vomited, and asked for water, Gu then gave him a drink laced with cyanide.
However, the three judges in the case dismissed the supposed threat.
“The investigation showed that Neil Heywood did threaten Bo Guagua, which intensified their conflict. But there is no evidence that shows Neil Heywood did any harm to Bo Guagua, so the defence is not accepted by the court.”
Friends of Mr Heywood have confirmed that he had asked Gu and her family for money, but dismissed the idea that he would have threatened the younger Bo.
The court said experts in Shanghai found that while Gu was “judged to be fully responsible for her actions, and able to recognise the nature of the crime and its consequences”, her mental state meant that “her ability to control what was happening had diminished”. She is reported to be taking medication for paranoia.
“In consideration of Mr Heywood’s threats, her mental disorder and weakened ability to control her behaviour, and considering that she provided clues about other people’s breaches of discipline and law to the police, and made a positive contribution to the investigation, she does not have to be executed instantly,” the court ruled.
A source close to Gu’s family told the Washington Post newspaper that a deal had been cut between the authorities and relatives that would allow them to visit her within 20 days if they agreed not to appeal her case. Both Gu and Zhang would also be allowed to serve their sentences in Beijing, close to their families, the unnamed source added.
Lin Xiaolin, a lawyer representing Zhang, confirmed that the pair would be allowed to see their families shortly.
“We welcome the fact that the Chinese authorities have investigated the death of Neil Heywood and tried those they identified as responsible,” said a statement from the British embassy in Beijing.
“We consistently made it clear to the Chinese authorities that we wanted to see the trials in this case conform to international human rights standards and for the death penalty not to be applied.”
Gu appeared “peaceful” in court, according to He Zhengsheng, a lawyer representing the Heywood family, who normally specialises in finance and foreign investment.
After the verdict was read out, Gu made a short statement, he said.
“She said she had no objections. She acted normally - quiet and peaceful. She spoke at her normal speed and tone and did not get emotional at any point.”
Mr He said he had informed Mr Heywood’s Chinese wife, Wang Lu, of the verdict in a brief telephone call after the sentences were announced.
“I have reported the result to the family. I have not met them in person [today]. I only spoke to them on the phone, so I could not judge their reaction. The reaction of Mr Heywood’s wife was quite normal, I think.”
Mr He rejected reports that Mr Heywood’s family was seeking financial compensation for his death. “I have no idea about compensation. The Heywood family has never consulted me on that,” he said.
Both Gu and Zhang said they would not appeal the verdict, the court said. “During the whole case [Gu’s] health has been good and her mental condition stable. She said in court that the judgement was fair and reflected a respect for the law, the truth, and for life,” Mr Tang said.
Gu’s trial is at the heart of a huge political crisis for the Communist party. Her husband, Bo Xilai, had been on course for a seat on the all-powerful, nine-man Politburo Standing Committee this Autumn. Mr Bo, however, has not been seen since March and is under investigation for unspecified breaches of party discipline.
The Chinese media was noticeably absent at the courthouse, with newspapers having been ordered to use the “official line” on the case from Xinhua, the state news agency.
While there is a general belief in China that Gu’s trial is part of a political campaign against Mr Bo, observers at the trial noted that the case had been thoroughly investigated. Forensic evidence, photographs of the scene of the crime, video and audio material, and witness statements were all presented in court.
Four police officers from Chongqing were also found guilty of helping Gu to cover her tracks. Guo Weiguo, the former deputy chief of the police bureau, was sentenced to eleven years for ordering his officers to “fake, hide and destroy” the evidence. The three others, Li Yang, Wang Pengfei and Wang Zhi received lesser sentences, partly because they had disobeyed Mr Guo.
Additional reporting by Valentina Luo