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In trial, Chinese politician launches vigorous defense

JINAN, China — Bo Xilai, the disgraced Chinese politician whose charisma and populist appeal once propelled him to the upper echelons of the Communist Party, put those attributes to full use on the second day of his corruption trial with a legal defense that was unorthodox, vigorous, and dramatic.

In court on Friday, Bo flattered the judge, poked holes in the prosecution’s arguments, and called into question the sanity and moral character of witnesses, according to court transcripts.

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But topping even those feisty maneuvers was a shocking 11-minute video of Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai — her first public appearance since her conviction last year for the murder of a British businessman.

In the video testimony, which authorities said was taped Aug. 10 and which was posted on the Jinan court microblog on Friday, Gu spoke in a soft, refined voice as she described her family’s once-opulent lifestyle, allegedly funded by bribes and political connections.

Gu has been in prison since receiving a suspended death sentence after a legal process that critics have derided as a fig leaf masking deep power struggles within the party.

Her testimony, combined with that of other witnesses on Friday, painted the most complete picture to date of the motivations and events that led to the death of British businessman Neil Heywood, Gu’s arrest and Bo’s ouster from the party, in which he was once a contender for membership in China’s most powerful ruling body.

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