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Police go on trial for 'cover up' in Mrs. Bo Xilai case

The murder case against former Chinese Communist Party official Bo Xilai's wife, Gu Kailai, has claimed more political casualties. Four police officers are on trial for allegedly trying to cover up the murder.

A Chinese court on Friday tried four senior police officers accused of covering up a high-profile murder allegedly committed by a former communist party official's wife, in a scandal that has sent political shockwaves through Beijing's Politburo.

The trial of the police officers comes one day after the hearing for Gu Kailai and her assistant Zhang Xiaojun, who are accused of poisoning British national Neil Heywood last November over a business deal gone wrong. Gu's hearing lasted seven hours and she did not contest the charges, according to court officials. The verdict is to be announced at a later date.

Police officers Guo Weiguo, Li Yang, Wang Pengfei and Wang Zhi are accused of "abusing the law and practicing favoritism" for supposedly trying to conceal Gu's alleged complicity in Heywood's death. Foreign media has not been allowed to attend the proceedings.

Gu is the wife of Bo Xilai, the former Communist Party chief of the southwestern megacity of Chongqing. Bo was a considered a controversial rising star within the party, who attracted support among leftists for his advocacy of economic policies reminiscent of Mao Zedong.

Corridors of power shaken

Bo was sacked by the Communist Party's 25-member Politburo and removed from his post in Chongqing last April in the aftermath of the scandal surrounding his wife. No charges have been leveled against Bo, but the party said it was investigating him for "serious breaches of discipline."

Hong Kong's daily South China Morning Post newspaper reported on Friday that the former Chongqing police chief, Wang Lijun, could also stand trial as early as next week in the southwestern city of Chengdu. Wang sought refuge in Chengdu's US consulate in February, after he allegedly informed Bo that his wife was suspected of murder.

Wang's flight precipitated the scandal that ultimately resulted in Bo's political demise. Prior to Wang's flight, Heywood's death had been attributed to a heart attack caused by excessive alcohol consumption. The former police chief could face charges that he committed treason.

China's Communist Party is approaching its 10-year handover of power, in which seven of its most senior leaders will step aside to make room for a new generation in its highest ranks. The controversy surrounding Bo and his wife Gu has exposed divisions within the party ahead of the power change.

slk/jr (AFP, Reuters, dpa)