BEIJING — The murder trial of Gu Kailai, the wife of the deposed Chinese political leader ,, will begin next week in eastern Anhui Province, according to a person close to the case.
Ms. Gu, along with a longtime family employee, is accused of poisoning a British businessman late last year, a charge that brought about the downfall of her politically ambitious husband and jolted the Communist Party establishment as it prepares for a transfer of power to a new raft of leaders.
The trial, scheduled to start on Thursday, will be held at the Intermediate People’s Court in Hefei, a city hundreds of miles from Chongqing, the municipality led by Mr. Bo until his fall — and the place where the businessman, Neil Heywood, died.
Ms. Gu and the family aide, Zhang Xiaojun, are accused of killing Mr. Heywood in a hotel on the outskirts of Chongqing after what the state media has described as “a conflict of economic interests.” The crime, intentional homicide, carries a potential death sentence, but many lawyers and political observers believe Ms. Gu is more likely to receive a prison term.
In a statement last week, the official Xinhua news agency described the evidence against the defendants as “irrefutable and substantial” but seemed to offer up the prospect of leniency by suggesting that Ms. Gu was driven to kill Mr. Heywood to protect her son, Bo Guagua. The statement did not elaborate, and the Chinese media has been largely barred from discussing the topic.
The elder Mr. Bo, who has already lost his job as Chongqing party chief and has been suspended from his spot on the powerful Politburo, is also likely to face some form of official reckoning in the coming weeks or months. For now, however, he stands accused of violating party disciplinary rules stemming from one dramatic element of the scandal: his former police chief’s decision last February to seek refuge inside an American Consulate not far from Chongqing.
It was during that brief overnight visit that the chief, Wang Lijun, reportedly told American officials about the killing and Mr. Bo’s efforts to cover up the crime.
While the scheduling of Ms. Gu’s trial suggests that party leaders have already determined her fate, those with knowledge of the deliberations say those same leaders were until recently still grappling with how to handle Mr. Bo’s case.
A brash and charismatic politician, Mr. Bo was once seen as a possible contender for the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee, and he still has strong support within the party establishment as well as the public.
Legal experts say the trial of Ms. Gu will almost certainly be closed to the public and the foreign news media, although family members and British diplomats are hoping to attend.
A spokesman for the British Embassy in Beijing did not respond to a request for comment on Friday evening and telephone calls to the court in Hefei went unanswered.