NEW: Bo interrupted and angered judge during court session, source tells CNN
Court rejects Bo Xilai's appeal against his conviction and life sentence
Ruling ends one of China's messiest political scandals
Bo was found guilty of all three charges brought against him by the prosecution
A court in eastern China on Friday upheld the guilty verdict and life sentence against former high-flying politician Bo Xilai, effectively ending one of the messiest political scandals to hit the ruling Chinese Communist Party in decades.
Shandong Province High People’s Court in Jinan affirmed the decision handed down by a lower court in the same city last month when Bo was found guilty of all three charges brought against him.
He received the life sentence for bribe-taking, 15 years for embezzlement and seven years for abuse of power following a trial that revealed tantalizing details of the lavish lifestyles of China’s elite.
The high court rejected Bo’s appeal as it lacked any “factual or legal basis,” court vice president Hou Jianjun told reporters in a press briefing, adding the court’s decision is final.
China state broadcaster, CCTV, released footage from the court session, which showed Bo standing handcuffed between two court policemen in what was likely his last public appearance.
He appeared to be smiling while listening to the judge read the court’s decision and several of Bo’s family members were seen seated in the audience.
A family source told CNN the court session lasted for around 45 minutes with Bo repeatedly interrupted the judge to rebut the court’s findings, angering the judge.
Bo met with his lawyer frequently after he filed the appeal and prepared diligently for the process, but his request to meet his wife was denied, the source added. Bo filed his appeal the day after his conviction in September.
Legal experts said Bo would begin to serve his sentence immediately, although he could still file a motion with the high court or the nation’s Supreme People’s Court to review his case based on new information or evidence. Chances of a judge accepting such a motion and overturning the verdict are slim.
’Hotel-line’ prison awaits
Court documents said Bo would be incarcerated in Qincheng Prison, a maximum-security prison in Beijing where former senior officials usually serve their sentences. It’s often described as having “hotel-like” conditions.
During his trial in August, Bo mounted a lively defense, denying the charges against him, according to transcripts published by the court.
Bo’s glittering career drew both admirers and detractors for his populist policies. It began to unravel last year amid a murder scandal in which his wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of poisoning British businessman, Neil Heywood.
The son of a revolutionary veteran, Bo rose to power as a city mayor, provincial governor, minister of commerce and member of the Politburo, the powerful policy-making body of the Communist Party.
He had been tipped to ascend farther up the party hierarchy before he was sacked as party chief in the sprawling metropolis of Chongqing.
Bo’s wife, Gu, was found guilty by a court last year of murdering Heywood and given a suspended death sentence.
Her video testimony formed a major part of the prosecution’s case against her husband.
China’s leaders are keen to put the case behind them ahead of an important Party meeting in November – the third plenum of the Party’s Central Committee – when President Xi Jinping is expected to push for economic reforms.
“The idea is to allow a period to calm down public backlash over this issue before the party meeting,” said a Beijing-based observer, who declined to be identified because he is not authorized to comment publicly.
“They want nothing to distract from the important meeting.”
However, not everyone thinks Bo’s political career has been laid to rest. Wang Juntao, a political exile and former class mate of Bo, says the case has only raised his profile:
“The Communist Party may have ended his career in the party, but it has given him a distinct political identity and charisma as a leftist. In a way, this has made him a hero.”
Additional reporting from CNN’s Jaime FlorCruz in Beijing