BEIJING, Oct 9 (Reuters) - A court in eastern China on Wednesday allowed ousted former senior politician Bo Xilai to appeal against a guilty verdict on charges of corruption and abuse of power handed out last month which earned him a life sentence.
Bo was a rising star in China's leadership circles and cultivated a loyal following through his charisma and populist, quasi-Maoist policies, especially among those left out in the cold by China's anything-for-growth economic policies.
But his career was stopped short last year by a murder scandal in which his wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of poisoning a British businessman, Neil Heywood, who had been a family friend.
In a brief statement posted on its website, the high court in the eastern province of Shandong, where Bo was first tried, said it had allowed him to appeal. It gave no other details, and did not say when the appeal would be heard.
While Bo has the right to appeal, his sentence and the verdict are unlikely to be overturned as the courts are controlled by the ruling Communist Party which long ago pronounced him guilty.
A source with direct knowledge of the case said Bo had appealed "on the day the sentence was announced".
"At that time he appealed verbally, and later submitted it in writing," the source told Reuters, asking not to be named because of the political sensitivity of the case.
"He told the court of first instance that he would appeal and that is equivalent to the court receiving (the application). He also paid the appeal fee. It is not clear when the appeals court will start the review. It should be rather soon, perhaps this Friday or next week," the source said.
Bo, 64, who was Communist Party chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, mounted an unexpectedly fiery defence during his trial, denouncing testimony against him by his wife as the ravings of a mad woman hoping to have her own sentence reduced.
He repeatedly said that he was not guilty of any of the charges, though he admitted making some bad decisions and shaming his country by his handling of former Chongqing police chief, Wang Lijun, who first told Bo that Gu had probably murdered Heywood.
Under Chinese rules, the appeal should be heard within two months.
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Until his ouster, Bo was the Communist Party chief of the mega-city of Chongqing and one of the country's most prominent political figures. The telegenic, media-savvy politician rode to nationwide fame by waging an anti-mafia crackdown and organizing mass sing-alongs of Communist Party songs. But his publicity-seeking ways and his revival of Mao Zedong-era radical campaigns alarmed many in the political elite. The son of one of the Communist state's founding fathers, Bo was already in the party's 25-member Politburo and before the scandal was seen as a contender for an even higher post. Rumors had also swirled about the Bo family's wealth and the shenanigans of his son. Bo is standing trial for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power. <em>In this March 11, 2012 photo, Bo Xilai, former Chongqing party secretary wipes his glasses during a plenary session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)</em>
Bo's wife has confessed to killing British businessman Neil Heywood after having a dispute over money and worrying that he had threatened her son's safety, according to state media. She is said to have risen out of a trying childhood during nationwide upheaval to become a prominent lawyer and high-flying politician's wife. She was skilled at turning on the charm when the going was smooth, yet quick to turn hostile when crossed. Like Bo, she is the offspring of a prominent Chinese revolutionary veteran. A Chinese court gave Gu a suspended death sentence in August last year which will likely be commuted to a life term. <em>This video image taken from CCTV shows Gu Kailai, second left, the wife of disgraced politician Bo Xilai, being taken into the Intermediate People's Court in the eastern Chinese city of Hefei Thursday Aug. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/CCTV via APTN)</em>
Their 25-year-old son, who was educated at top universities in England and the United States, including Harvard. Guagua, who has appeared shirtless at parties in photos posted on the Internet, has said he attended social events as an Oxford University undergraduate to broaden his perspective. He denies accusations he received preferential treatment in admissions, that he was a poor student or that he drove a pricey sports car. He is not believed to have returned to China since the scandal broke and he is currently studying law at Columbia University. He says he has been denied access to his parents since their detention 18 months ago. <em>China's Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai (R), stands at a mourning hall held for his father Bo Yibo on January 18, 2007 in Beijing, China. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)</em>
Once Bo's right-hand man and Chongqing's police chief, Wang was sidelined by Bo in February last year after Wang confronted him with news that Bo's wife was suspected of killing a British businessman. Fearing for his life, Wang fled to the U.S. Consulate in the nearby city of Chengdu where Chinese authorities say he applied for asylum. Chinese security sealed the area around the consulate as Wang negotiated with officials for safe passage to Beijing accompanied by State Security officials. While in the consulate, Wang is believed to have alleged that Gu was behind Heywood's death, prompting the British government to ask China to launch a new investigation. In a surprising twist, people who attended Wang's trial say the court heard evidence that Gu had informed Wang of her intentions and that for a time, he too participated in planning the murder. Wang was sentenced to 15 years for corruption and covering up the Heywood murder. <em>In this Oct. 16, 2011 file photo, then Chongqing city police chief Wang Lijun delivers a speech during the 2nd International Forensic Science Meeting in southwestern China's Chongqing city. (AP Photo/File)</em>
A British business consultant and Bo family friend, his body was found in a secluded Chongqing hilltop retreat in November 2011. Chinese authorities originally blamed his death on excessive drinking or a heart attack and his body was cremated without an autopsy. Subsequently, an official Chinese statement said he had a longtime business relationship with Gu and her son, Guagua, but that it had deteriorated over financial disputes. Bo reportedly sought to block a police investigation after Wang came to him with his suspicions. <em>In this April 12, 2011 file photo, Neil Heywood, a British business consultant, smiles at an art gallery in Beijing. (AP Photo/China.org.cn, File)</em>