Thursday, 9 August 2012

Contriving an Open Shut Case

Defendant Gu Kailai in the courtroom today
The most anticipated court case in China ended in seven hours today.

Gu Kailai, wife of former Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai was brought into court and she and her family aide Zhang Xiaojun did not dispute the murder charge for the death of Briton Neil Heywood.

The prosecutor revealed that on the evening of November 13 last year, Heywood was invited to a party Gu held at a hotel and he got drunk and vomited.

She went to his hotel room and when he asked for some water, she added poison that Zhang had delivered to her and made Heywood drink the liquid.

As for the motive behind the killing, the prosecutor said Gu felt Heywood was a threat to her son Bo Guagua's personal safety and she decided to kill him.

The defense said that though Gu murdered Heywood, he shared part of the blame for causing her emotional distress to drive her to commit the dirty deed.

The trial is over and sentencing will be held at a later date.

About 140 people packed the courtroom in Hefei, including Heywood's family and friends and two British diplomats.

Gu looked like she was in good health and dressed in a black jacket, trousers and white shirt, her body language seemed to give an air of quiet defiance.

China analysts had speculated the trial would be short -- but this short?

It's quite obvious the Chinese government wants to sweep this episode under the carpet as quickly as possible, and it doesn't seem to have touched on Bo at all, thus having no link to him, nor any mention of the immense wealth the family accumulated through bribery and corruption.

As a result, it's just about Gu and her murder charge.

But the way the trial was conducted was hardly following the rule of law.

"The whole thing is already too compromised and dominated by politics to persuade anybody," said Beijing-based legal analyst Randy Peerenboom. "I don't think there are many people who think this is going to be handled fully in accordance with all of the legal stipulations in criminal procedure without political intervention, said the associate fellow at the Oxford University Centre for Socio-Legal Studies.

Meanwhile New York University law professor Jerome Cohen was concerned that Gu had not received her full rights as a defendant.

"Gu has been alone with her accusers for months," Cohen said. The case has shown "how limited the meaning of the rule of law is in China," he said.

In addition there was no testimony from French architect Patrick DeVillers mentioned in news reports about the trial -- unless he will be tried later?

In any event tomorrow is the trial of the police officers who were charged with covering up the investigation into Heywood's murder.

State media are saying this trial will strengthen people's confidence in China's legal system, that no one is above the law regardless of their status or power.

The political spinning of this court case only demonstrates how contrived it is and we will never get to the truth of why Heywood was killed.

Is that really justice?

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