Chinese Communist "princeling" Bo Xilai, expected by many to take a key leadership position in the leadership transition of 2012, was expelled from the Communist Party in September after a career that saw him as Mayor of Dalian City, Minister of Commerce and Party Chief of the Chongqing municipality. His wife Gu Kailai received a suspended death sentence in August 2012 for murdering British business partner Neil Heywood.
Bo Xilai displays cunning and charisma at his trial
Sources say former party boss was even more forceful than transcripts suggested
Standing on the public stage for perhaps the last time during his corruption trial, Bo Xilai repeatedly showed flashes of the cunning and charisma that had helped propel him to the highest levels of the Communist Party.
Bo not only broke with the usual practice of disgraced party officials of graciously accepting their fate, the former Chongqing party boss mounted a vigorous self-defence, dressing down witnesses and denouncing the evidence against him as weak.
While Bo's method was clear from the public transcripts released by the court, people with direct knowledge of the proceedings said Bo was even more forceful in portions of testimony that have not been released.
The sources cited one occasion where Bo seemed to question the fairness of the trial, appearing to reference a statement by prosecutors accusing him of accepting a huge amount of graft, which Xinhua had reported last month.
"Some authoritative media have concluded the graft concerns an extremely huge amount of money, a conclusion made before any court ruling is reached," Bo told the court, according to the sources. "This is against democracy, rule of law, fairness and justice."
In the trial, Bo talked of "some things" of the top leadership, but it was interrupted every time by the court, the sources said. Bo did not name any top officials.
In an effort to make the most of his brief return to the public eye, Bo requested more time from the court to make his case, according to two witnesses to the proceedings. Before the trial, he had repeatedly asked for proceedings to be made public, according to previous media reports.
Bo "behaved energetically" throughout the trial, sources said, even though he reportedly only managed a few hours of sleep each night. He carried with him a briefcase with carefully organised files containing notes and papers he thought necessary to counter the reported 90 volumes of evidence gathered by prosecutors.
"I'm a man with strong personality," Bo was quoted by the witnesses as saying, adding that he wished to debate "scientifically, objectively and effectively".
During the trial, Bo shifted deftly from aggressive to sympathetic and back.
He sneered when his former right-hand man, Wang Lijun , entered court in a wheelchair to testify against him, witnesses said. Wang avoided eye contact with Bo, who attacked him as "extremely vile".
Bo cast himself as the victim of an affair between his wife, Gu Kailai and Wang, criticising Gu's testimony and mental state even as he expressed sympathy for her.
"My life has already been a tragedy, and so is Kailai's life," Bo said. "I hope you guys can stop this investigation and stop squeezing the last bit of warmth out of our family."