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China's Bo Xilai allowed to appeal against life in jail

Former China's Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai reacts as he attends the opening ceremony of the Chinese People's P
Former China's Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai reacts as he attends the opening ceremony of the Chinese People's P

BEIJING (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 defense 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.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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