Chinese politician Bo Xilai has denied some of the accusations against him, shortly after his corruption trial began. These were his first public comments since he was arrested and charged with corruption last year.
The Intermediate People's Court in the eastern Chinese city of Jinan quoted the disgraced politician on Thursday as denying having taken bribes from a development corporation official in the northeastern city of Dalian.
"I hope the judge will reasonably and fairly judge, and judge this according to the laws of our country," Bo also was quoted as saying in microblog postings issued by the court.
A swift guilty verdict is widely expected for Bo, whose political career began to unravel about 18 months ago, when his wife was accused of murder. The former party chief in the major city of Chongqing is facing charges of bribery, corruption and abuse of power.
If found guilty, Bo could face the death penalty, but observers say a life or 20-year suspended sentence appears more likely. Chinese courts, which fall under Communist Party control have a 98 percent conviction rate.
Bo's political career was stopped short last year with a scandal involving his wife, Gu Kailai, who received a death sentence for the murder of Neil Heywood, a British business partner and family friend. The sentence was later commuted to life in prison. Bo's former police chief in Chongqing, Wang Lijun, received 15 years for trying to cover up the case.
"Bo violated regulations to block the investigation of the murder in which Bogu Kailai was a suspect," court spokesman Liu Yanjie said, using Gu's official but rarely used name.
'Against my will'
Prosecutors also said that Bo bribes took while mayor of the city of Dalian, governor of Liaoning province and national minister of commerce, adding that he had embezzled 5 million yuan (600,000 euros, $800,000) of public funds, as well. The court charged Bo with receiving millions of yuan in bribes from Xu Ming, a plastics-to-property entrepreneur who is a close friend, and Tang Xiaolin, the general manager of Hong Kong-based export company Dalian International Development Ltd.
"Regarding the matter of Tang Xiaolin giving me money three times, I once admitted it against my will during the Central Discipline Inspection Commission's investigation against me," Bo said, referring to the party's top anti-graft body. "(I am) willing to bear the legal responsibilities, but at that time I did not know the circumstances of these matters. My mind was a blank."
The prosecution called for the minimum sentence of 10 years in jail for taking bribes of more than 100,000 yuan. According to the court, he received the bribes through his wife, Gu, and his son, Bo Guagua - the first time that authorities had named the younger Bo in the case.
The court did not announce whether Bo had or would plead guilty to any charges. The trial is scheduled to last two days and a verdict could come in September. According to the Jinan Intermediate Court's microblog feed, five members of Bo's family and 19 journalists were among the more than 100 people who attended the hearing. No foreign journalists were at the hearing.
Liu, the court spokesman, told reporters that Bo appeared "emotionally stable and physically healthy" and that the "session proceeded in an orderly fashion."
mkg/pfd (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)
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