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Lawyer for China's deposed Bo unsure if he can take case

A combination of two photographs shows British businessman Neil Heywood (L) at an Aston Martin dealership in Beijing, May 26, 2010, and Gu K
A combination of two photographs shows British businessman Neil Heywood (L) at an Aston Martin dealership in Beijing, May 26, 2010, and Gu K

BEIJING (Reuters) - A lawyer for disgraced former top Chinese politician Bo Xilai, who has been employed by the family to represent him, said on Thursday he was unable to say whether the government would allow him to represent Bo when the case comes to trial.

Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, and his former police chief, Wang Lijun, have both been jailed over a scandal stemming from the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood while Bo was Communist Party chief of the southwestern city of Chongqing.

The government last month accused Bo of corruption and of bending the law to hush up Heywood's murder. Before Bo is formally charged and tried, investigators must complete an inquiry and indict him.

Bo's mother-in-law, Fan Chengxiu, has retained Li Xiaolin, who was also part of Gu's legal team, to represent him.

But Li said he was unsure if the authorities would allow this. During Gu's trial, she had to use government-appointed lawyers.

"I still can't say whether I'll be able to get involved in this case. We will try our hardest to take it," Li told Reuters in a brief telephone interview.

Li said he did not know where Bo was and added that he had not seen him, as he had only just been employed by Fan.

"There are many things that are impossible to know. I know about as much as you do," Li said.

He declined to speculate on when a trial may happen.

"How can I estimate this? It's all guesswork," Li said.

China is expected to expel Bo from parliament on Friday, which would strip him of the immunity from prosecution he had enjoyed as one of its members, paving the way for formal criminal charges to be laid.

As China's prosecutors and courts come under Communist Party control they are most unlikely to challenge the accusations against him.

The Bo scandal has overshadowed preparations for an important party congress that opens November 8 and will unveil the country's new central leadership line-up.

Bo, 63, was widely seen as pursuing a powerful spot in that line-up before his career unraveled after his former police chief fled to a U.S. consulate in February, saying that Bo's wife had poisoned Heywood.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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