x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Bo Xilai stuck in legal limbo, lawyer says

Mr Bo, once a contender for top leadership, was ousted in China's biggest political scandal in two decades.

BEIJING // The former Chinese politician Bo Xilai is stuck in legal limbo despite the opening of a formal criminal investigation into accusations of graft and abuse of power, his lawyers said yesterday.

Mr Bo, once a contender for top leadership, was ousted in China's biggest political scandal in two decades.

His wife, Gu Kailai, and his former police chief, Wang Lijun, have both been jailed over a scandal that stems from the murder of the British businessman Neil Heywood while Mr Bo was Communist Party chief of the city of Chongqing.

The government has accused Mr Bo of corruption and of bending the law to hush up the murder. Prosecutors formally began a criminal investigation into him last month but have yet to announce charges.

Two lawyers hired by Mr Bo's family, Li Xiaolin and Shen Zhigeng, said nearly two weeks after the official announcement of the criminal investigation, they had not been given permission to either see him or represent him.

"Of course not," Mr Shen said, when asked whether he had seen Bo. "The confirmation [that I can represent Bo] hasn't been verified. So how can we see him?"

The trial would be after a key Communist Party congress opening on Thursday, Mr Shen said.

That meeting will usher in a generational leadership change and which has been overshadowed by the Mr Bo scandal.

"I do not know," Mr Shen said, referring to when the trial may start, but it would be "after the 18th party congress".

Top party leaders ended a closed-door conclave on Sunday with a decision to formally expel Mr Bo from the party, as a precursor to criminal prosecution.

Mr Li, who was retained by Bo's mother-in-law, said he had no idea where the trial might be, but dismissed speculation that it could be held at the Supreme People's Court in Beijing.

"There's no evidence for it."

Mr Li said he was waiting for the state prosecutor to approve his application to represent Mr Bo.

Because China's prosecutors and courts come under Communist Party control, they are unlikely to challenge the accusations against Mr Bo.

The trial of Gu lasted only seven hours, while the trial of Wang lasted two days.

"All I can say is I hope he will be given a fair trial," Mr Li said.