- Last Updated: 4:07 AM, August 20, 2012
- Posted: 2:36 AM, August 20, 2012
HEFEI, China — The wife of a disgraced Chinese politician was given a suspended death sentence today after confessing to killing a British businessman by poisoning him with cyanide in a case that rocked the country’s top leadership.
A suspended sentence is usually commuted to life in prison after several years.
Sentenced along with Gu Kailai was a family aide who was given nine years’ imprisonment for his involvement in the murder of Neil Heywood, said He Zhengsheng, a lawyer for the Heywood family who attended the sentencing in this eastern China city.
The sentencing closes one chapter of China’s biggest political crisis in two decades, but also leaves open questions over the fate of Gu’s husband, Bo Xilai, who was dismissed in March as the powerful Communist Party boss of Chongqing.
State media say Gu confessed to intentional homicide at a one-day trial held here Aug. 9 under heavy guard. Media reports said she and Heywood had a dispute over money, and Heywood allegedly threatened her son.
Gu was accused of luring the victim to a Chongqing hotel, getting him drunk and then pouring cyanide into his mouth.
Any ruling would have been politically delicate, and Chinese leaders may have decided to impose a lengthy prison term instead of death for fear that a more severe penalty might stir outrage or make Gu look like a scapegoat for her husband’s misdeeds.