Bo Xilai denies first of allegations in series of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power charges.
The Chinese court hearing the corruption case against disgraced politician Bo Xilai has released videotaped testimony from his wife, whose murder of a British businessman set off the scandal that ruined Bo’s career.
The video of Gu Kailai, played in a Jinan court on Friday, was intended to bolster bribery allegations against her husband, who has launched an unexpectedly spirited defence.
Gu has not been seen since August 2012, when she was convicted of murder in China’s worst political scandal in decades.
In the video, Gu said a businessman accused of bribing Bo was a family friend who did many favours for them in exchange for her husband’s help. The businessman, Xu Ming, is from the northeastern city of Dalian, where Bo was once a top official.
Prosecutors say Bo took $3.5 million in bribes from two businessmen, and that he instructed an underling to keep quiet an $800,000 payment to the city, according to updates on the microblog website Sina Weibo posted by the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court.
Gu said Xu often paid for the family’s international air tickets and brought gifts that included expensive seafood. She said her son received an electric standup scooter from Xu, and that Bo had been aware of the gifts.
“Xu Ming is our old and long-time friend,” Gu is seen telling her questioner, who identified herself as someone from the country’s top prosecutor’s office. “We had a very good impression of him and believed he was honest and kind, so we trusted him a lot.”
Gu is seen seated at a table in a black-and-white striped shirt in the video, posted on the Jinan court’s microblog. The microblog and court transcripts have provided a rare but possibly incomplete window into the proceedings for the public and for foreign media, which have been barred from the courtroom.
It is unclear when the video was shot.
Gu, convicted of murdering businessman Neil Heywood, received a suspended death sentence that may be reduced to life in prison.
In response, Bo called his wife “insane” and said that prosecutors had manipulated her to implicate him.
“Her testimony as far as I am concerned, was [given] under psychological pressure, and driven by [hope of] a reduced sentence,” he said, according to the court.
The trial, which was expected to last two days, saw proceedings adjourn on Friday with the chief judge calling proceedings to order again on Saturday.
‘A mad dog’
The trial was delving further into the bribery allegations on Friday before moving on to charges of embezzlement of government funds and abuse of office.
The Communist Party hopes the trial will show that it is serious about cracking down on widespread corruption in a transparent way.
Its openness in releasing transcripts of the proceedings underscores its confidence it can weather any damage to its reputation from a case that exposed the illicit machinations of an elite family in China’s communist establishment.
Bo’s defence on Thursday focused on challenging the prosecutors’ evidence that he provided political favours to the two businessmen. He said he barely knew the men and argued that he was ignorant of the favours they were providing his wife and son.
At one juncture, Bo called one of the men his is alleged to have taken a bribe from “a mad dog” who was framing him.
During his defence, Bo thanked the judge for letting him speak, asserted that he was pressured into making a confession and was selectively contrite.
“I’m not a perfect man, and not a strong-willed person, I’m willing to take responsibility for that,” Bo said.
“But as to the basic facts of whether I am guilty or innocent, I must say my piece.”
The opening day of the trial on Thursday marked the first time he was seen in public in 18 months, since shortly after the scandal emerged.
Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from outside the courthouse in Jinan, said that on the first day Bo very much challenged every accusation that was thrown at him.
Our correspondent added that Bo had “gone rogue and entirely off script” and had caught the Chinese authorities off guard with his words.
“But this is in some way convenient for the authorities who want to show the trial is a fair legal process… and that [Bo] is being given the opportunity to stand up for himself,” Fawcett said.
“It’s a really, incredibly, unprecedented trial.”