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China sets date for Gu Kailai murder trial

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The murder trial of the wife of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai will start next Thursday in Hefei city in east China, two lawyers told the Associated Press news agency.

The news came a week after China formally announced Gu Kailai indictment on charges of murdering Neil Heywood, a British man, in November.

The date is a sign the case is advancing before China's once-a-decade political transition.

The lawyers close to the case spoke to the AP on Friday on condition of anonymity because Chinese authorities would likely sanction anyone who discloses details about the tightly controlled case.

Gu and a family aide, Zhang Xiaojun, are accused of poisoning British businessman Heywood, an associate of the Bo family.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Gu had a falling out with Heywood over money and worried that her son's safety was threatened.

The murder case is at the centre of a political scandal that has highlighted factions in the Chinese leadership ahead of the power handover to a younger generation of leaders later this year.

Bo was once considered a strong contender for a seat on the all-powerful, nine-member Politburo Standing Committee.

Heywood's death was initially ruled accidental, but murder suspicions surfaced after the police chief who served under Bo, then the party chief in Chongqing city, made a surprise visit in February to a US consulate, where he apparently divulged information linking Gu to Heywood's death.

Bo was sacked from his position in March. He is under party investigation for unspecified discipline violations. No formal charges have been brought against him.


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