Gu Kailai is accused of murdering British businessman,Neil Heywood
A Chinese court will deliver its verdict on Monday against Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced politician Bo Xilai, on charges of killing a British businessman last year in a scandal that has shaken the Communist Party's transition to a new leadership, reports Reuters.
When a court in the eastern city of Hefei announces its verdict at a hearing starting at 9 a.m. (9.00 p.m. EDT), Gu could receive the death penalty, along with a family aide, Zhang Xiaojun, who was also tried for the murder.
But many lawyers have said Gu is likely to receive a long jail term, because official accounts of the case have highlighted her claim that she was trying to protect her son.
At a trial on August 9, Gu admitted to poisoning the businessman Neil Heywood, and alleged that an economic dispute between them led him to threaten her son, Bo Guagua, according to official accounts published by state media. Zhang, the aide, has not disputed the murder charge but his lawyer said he was a mere accomplice to Gu.
Gu's trial is probably a prelude to formal punishment of Bo Xilai, a brashly ambitious politician under investigation for alleged violations of party discipline -- an accusation that covers corruption, abuse of power and other misdeeds.
After the party leadership decides on those allegations, Bo could also face criminal charges related to the murder case.
"I don't think it's likely that Gu will receive the death penalty," said He Weifang, a professor of law at Peking University who has followed the case closely.
"I think Bo Xilai will also face a criminal trial," said He.
"I don't think it's likely he could claim that from the poisoning in November last year, he had no clue about it, and if he did but tried to hide it or didn't come forward, then that might constitute concealing a crime or obstructing justice."
Bo's hopes for securing a spot in China's next top leadership unraveled after his former police chief, Wang Lijun, fled to a U.S. consulate in early February for about 24 hours and exposed the murder allegations.
Legal experts and Bo's supporters have questioned the official version of events outlined in court statements and a detailed report by the state-run Xinhua news agency.