Bo Xilai
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Police on guard outside the Intermediate People's Court in Jinan, where the Bo verdict will be handed down this morning. Photo: AFP

Bo Xilai 'will appeal' verdict and sentence Jinan court hands down

Unrepentant former Chongqing party boss could be sentenced to life imprisonment

Bo Xilai
Keith Zhai

Defiant princeling Bo Xilai is likely to appeal against the verdict and sentence a Jinan court hands down today in his trial for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power, sources with direct knowledge of the case say.

The Jinan Intermediate People's Court's decisions on one of China's most sensitive trials in decades, to be announced at 10am, will be closely watched.

The 64-year-old former Politburo member departed from convention by vehemently denying the charges against him during a five-day hearing in late August. In a letter to his family after the hearing, the colourful politician maintained that his name would one day be cleared, just as his revolutionary hero father, Bo Yibo, was jailed but then vindicated after the Cultural Revolution.

Although it is has been widely believed the former Chongqing party secretary will receive a relatively lenient sentence, the fact he showed scant remorse in court could land him a much harsher sentence - up to life imprisonment. The maximum punishment for his crimes is the death penalty.

Prosecutors linked Bo to almost 27 million yuan (HK$34 million) in bribes and embezzlement. He was also charged with abusing his power in how he handled the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood by his wife, Gu Kailai, and the defection of his top aide, Wang Lijun, to the US consulate in Chengdu. Bo faces a minimum of 10 years in jail and must lodge an appeal within 10 days.

Pundits generally believe the Communist Party wants to put its biggest political scandal in decades behind it before moving on to discuss economic reform at a meeting of its Central Committee in November. It is unclear whether the party will press charges against another political heavyweight, Zhou Yongkang, a former Politburo Standing Committee member and Bo's ally, despite corruption probes centred on him.

Sources in Jinan said security today would be similar to during the hearing last month when Bo's leftist supporters and petitioners protested outside the court.

Mainland media were told to use only Xinhua dispatches during the trial, although the unprecedented live blogging of the hearing revealed to the public many intriguing details of the political drama of power, corruption and betrayal.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Bo set to appeal sentence after he learns fate today