11:36 21 August 2012
Gu Kailai, the Chinese woman accused of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood last year was sentenced to death on Monday but her execution has been spectacularly suspended.
The sentence means that the wife of Politburo member Bo Xilai will most likely face life in jail for the crime instead.
In official television footage of the hearing released to the press, a somewhat expressionless and plainly dressed Gu stated: "I feel the verdict is just and fully reflects the court's special respect for the law, it's special respect for reality and, in particular, it's special respect for life."
Her trial on August 9th saw the media sensation admit to poisoning Heywood last November and cited a business dispute as the catalyst. When Heywood apparently threatened her son, Bo Guagua, she took action.
Court officials have reported that such threats were established but not acted on.
A court official, Tang Yigan, quoted by Reuters found Gu's actions reflected a "psychological impairment".
Zhang Xiaojun, an aide to the Bo family, was also sentenced to nine years in jail as an accomplice to the murder.
The story doesn't end there however. A separate trial found four policemen convicted of protecting Gu from investigation, signalling a cover-up scheme on behalf of the Bo family.
Connected leader Bo Xilai (Gu's husband) is an provincial leader and son of a revolutionary. His name was not officially mentioned in the trial, but the damage to his reputation could be lasting within his political party. It is believed that Bo was competing for a seat in the Politburo Standing Committee - a powerful political base.
Bo, the former party chief in Chongqing (the area where Heywood was killed), was once seen as a contender for a national leadership position. He has not been seen in public since the investigation.
In a statement released to the press, the British embassy said: "We welcome the fact that the Chinese authorities have investigated the death of Neil Heywood, and tried those they identified as responsible.
"We consistently made clear to the Chinese authorities that we wanted to see the trials in this case conform to international human rights standards and for the death penalty not to be applied."
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