Disgraced Politburo member Bo Xilai was formally charged with bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power yesterday, as the new leadership rushes to bring closure to the nation's biggest political scandal in years.
Prosecutors in Jinan, capital of Shandong province, gave no date for the trial. Under the Criminal Procedural Law, a court can only open a public trial 10 days after indictment.
Wang Zhaofeng, Bo's defence lawyer, said Bo, 64, was in normal physical and mental condition when he met him recently. "[Bo's appearance] remained largely unchanged," Wang said.
Bo was officially accused of receiving "extremely large amounts" of bribes, embezzling "extremely large amounts" of public funds and abusing his power of office, Xinhua said, citing the indictment.
It said the former Chongqing party chief had caused "heavy losses to the interests of the nation and the people in an extremely serious way".
Bo would become the third Politburo member to stand trial in the past two decades, following former Beijing party boss Chen Xitong in 1998 and Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu in 2008, who received 16 and 18 years' imprisonment respectively.
A Tuesday internal meeting in Bo's power base of Chongqing and other cities disclosed that he would be tried on charges of taking 20 million yuan (HK$25.27 million) in bribes, embezzling 5 million yuan and abusing power.
"Given the allegations, Bo is likely to face the death sentence with reprieve or life imprisonment, although technically, the 'huge amounts' in bribes can lead to death by law," said Mo Shaoping, a prominent rights lawyer in Beijing. "But such political cases are ruled by authorities rather than by law."
As former railways minister Liu Zhijun received a two-year suspended death sentence earlier this month for accepting bribes and gifts worth 64.6 million yuan, it would be almost impossible for Bo to receive capital punishment, Mo said.
A senior Chongqing police officer, jailed for two years during Bo's anti-mafia campaign in 2009 after confessing under torture, said he had been waiting for this day for years. "I knew Bo would get punished one day because he went too far in breaching the law," said the policeman, who declined to be named as authorities are still reviewing his appeal.
Bo has not been seen in public since March last year, when he was sacked from his Chongqing post amid intrigue surrounding his police chief's flight to the US consulate, telling US diplomats that Bo's wife had been involved in the murder of Neil Heywood, a British businessman who was close to the Bo family.
Bo's wife Gu Kailai got a suspended death sentence last August for poisoning Heywood. Bo's right-hand man Wang Lijun was convicted in September and sentenced to 15 years' jail for corruption. Both trials came about two weeks after indictments were announced.
Bo was dismissed from all his posts and expelled from the Communist Party in September.
The Jinan court could not be reached for comment.
Video: Bo Xilai Indicted