China's highest profile trial in decades has come to an end. A verdict is due at a later date as to whether Gu Kailai, the wife of the disgraced politician Bo Xilai, murdered a British businessman.
A court official said the trial lasted some seven hours and that neither Gu Kailai or her co-defendant and aide, Zhang Xiaojun, contested the murder charges against them.
"The trial finished this afternoon and the court adjourned," the official, Tang Yigan, told reporters. "The trial committee will announce the verdict after discussion. The date of the verdict will be announced."
Though many Chinese believe Gu may be guilty of poisoning Neil Heywood, they see her trial as part of a push against her husband Bo Xilai, an ambitious populist who made powerful enemies as he campaigned to join the next generation of top central leaders.
Police claimed Gu and Zhang killed Heywood over an illicit financial transaction Gu had wanted him to help her complete. However, when Gu was formally indicted, the official allegation instead hinted at a personal motive, saying Heywood had made unspecified threats against her son Bo Guagua.
In a rare concession because of the victim's nationality, two British diplomats were allowed to attend the hearing in Hefei, capital of the eastern province of Anhui, but journalists were barred.
Despite British calls for the case to be handled fairly and to unearth the truth around Heywood's death, the defense was entrusted to two provincial lawyers with less-than-extensive experience in criminal cases. This leaves little doubt that Gu will be convicted. Gu is herself a lawyer, and her family had hoped to arrange for private representation.
Though Gu faces death, experts consider a commuted sentence of 10 to 15 years in prison more likely, with the possible threat against her son and her concern for his safety providing a mitigating circumstance. Given her elite stature - her father was a renowned Communist general - she may also enjoy comfortable imprisonment conditions.
The scandal brought down Gu's husband, Bo, known for his aggressive crackdown on organized crime and for a Maoist-style "red revival" campaign that alienated party moderates.
Bo is now under investigation for corruption. But some analysts believe that Gu will bear the harsher consequences and that Bo will receive more lenient treatment - or that his case will be dealt with only after the leadership transition this autumn.
tj,mkg/slk (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)