China to seal ousted politician Bo's fate on Sunday

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese court will announce its verdict on ousted former senior politician Bo Xilai on Sunday following his trial last month on charges of corruption and abuse of power.

China's courts come under the control of the ruling Communist Party and are certain to find Bo guilty. State media, which speaks for the party, has already all but condemned him.

"The Jinan Intermediate People's Court hereby announces that it will announce a verdict in defendant Bo Xilai's bribery, corruption and abuse of power case on September 22, 2013, at 10 a.m. (0200 GMT)," the court in eastern China's Shandong province, where Bo was tried, said on its microblog.

Prosecutors demanded a heavy sentence for Bo on the final day of his divisive, dramatic trial, saying his "whimsical" challenge to the charges flew in the face of the evidence.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post cited a source as saying the case could drag on as Bo is likely to appeal.

Bo was a rising star in China's leadership circles when 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.

Bo, who was Communist Party chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, had mounted an unexpectedly feisty defence during his five-day trial, denouncing testimony against him by his wife as the ravings of a mad woman.

Bo repeatedly said 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 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. Wang was also jailed last year for covering up the crime.

The state prosecutor said Bo should not be shown leniency as he had recanted admissions of guilt provided ahead of the trial.

Bo could theoretically be given the death penalty for the charges, but many observers say that is unlikely as the party will not want to make a martyr of a man whose left-leaning social welfare policies won much popular support.

Legal experts have said they thought the details of the actual charges laid against Bo suggested he would be spared the death penalty. (Reporting by Michael Martina, Megha Rajagopalan and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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