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Bo Xilai Appeals Guilty Verdict After Chinese Court Issues Life Sentence For Embezzlement, Bribery

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BO XILAI
A screen shows the picture of the sentence of Chinese politician Bo Xilai (Center) on September 22, 2013 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images) | Getty

BEIJING -- Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai has appealed his guilty verdict, a person close to the case said Tuesday, in a rare move that is consistent with his defiant stance but unlikely to change the outcome.

The person with direct knowledge of the case, but who did not wish to be identified, said the former Politburo member made the appeal orally upon the delivery of the verdict issued by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in eastern China on Sunday.

The court announced that it found Bo guilty of embezzlement, bribery and abuse of power and sentenced him to life in prison. A copy of the verdict was later delivered to Bo, when he informed the court of his decision to appeal, the source said.

Chinese law allows appeals to be made orally, and the source said a written appeal to the higher court – Shandong Provincial Supreme People's Court – would also be submitted soon.

The provincial court is expected to make a ruling within two months, and it can uphold the lower court's decision, modify the sentence or ask for a retrial. But it is expected to stick to Jinan court's verdict because it is believed to be a decision by China's highest leadership, which controls the court system.

The Sunday verdict has effectively ended the political career of Bo, who was once an up-and-coming political star but whose political ambition and penchant for publicity ran afoul of China's consensus rule and posed a challenge to Xi Jinping, who was to ascend to China's top leadership position, in a power transition last year.

Bo's downfall was set in motion by his wife's murder of a British business associate, followed by his police chief's failed attempt to defect to a U.S. consulate.

A populist politician, Bo still has grassroots support in regions where he once ruled because of his campaigns against organized crime and social welfare policies such as affordable housing.

Political observers say Bo's appeal is a political statement more than anything. "He must safeguard his position as the helmsman of the left," said Li Weidong, a former magazine editor in Beijing.

During the trial, Bo denied all charges, blaming the corruption on others in his inner circle, including his wife, and expressed no contrition, in a departure from the choreographed proceedings of other recent political trials. Upon the readout of the verdict against him, Bo expressed his dissatisfaction and protested aloud in the courtroom that the verdict was "unjust," the source said.

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