A copy of the book "Uphold Justice in America" which is written by Gu Kailai, wife of China's former Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai
China will try Gu Kailai, the wife of ousted Politburo member Bo Xilai, on charges of murdering a British man, state media said on Thursday in the latest turn in a scandal that has rocked the government in Beijing and could bring Gu the death penalty.
The contentious dismissal of Bo has already shaken the Communist Party's looming once-in-a-decade succession, and now Gu and family aide Zhang Xiaojun will be prosecuted for allegedly poisoning businessman Neil Heywood last year over "conflict of economic interests", the official Xinhua news agency said.
"The facts of the two defendants' crime are clear, and the evidence is irrefutable and substantial," said the Xinhua report summarising the indictment. "Therefore, the two defendants should be charged with intentional homicide."
Gu and Zhang will face trial in Hefei, a city in eastern China, far from Chongqing, the sprawling municipality in the southwest where Bo made his political base and where Heywood died in a hillside hotel in November, reports Reuters.
Bo has not been named as a suspect in the murder case, but he is separately under investigation by party authorities and could also face trial at a later time.
Political observers have said a failure to forge a unified stance on handling the divisive Bo case could affect the Communist Party's focus on working out the leadership changes that will be decided at the upcoming congress.
Bo, the 62-year-old party chief of Chongqing before his dismissal, was widely seen as pushing for a spot in that new leadership until felled by the scandal brought to light by his former police chief, Wang Lijun.
"As big as this case is, the party congress will now proceed quite smoothly," said Joseph Fewsmith, a professor of Chinese politics at Boston University.
"The party has handled this case as one of one person breaking the law. The ideological issues have been pushed to the side, although that doesn't mean they're not there."
Xinhua did not give a date for the trial, but Shen Zhigeng, a lawyer who had been employed by Gu's family, told Reuters that her trial was likely to start on August 7 or 8. China's party-run courts rarely find in favour of defendants, and Gu and Zhang could face the death penalty.
The indictment comes around a week after Frenchman Patrick Henri Devillers, 52, flew from Cambodia to China to serve as a witness in the case. Devillers was detained last month in Cambodia at the behest of Beijing because of his suspected business links to Gu.