Bo Xilai, the former high-flying Chinese politician whose dramatic fall from grace shook the ruling Communist Party, made a defiant court appearance Thursday, disputing several of the accusations against him at his trial in eastern China.
Once considered a contender for the top rungs of China's political hierarchy, Bo is now on trial on charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.
A charismatic and divisive figure when he was in power, Bo has spent more than a year in detention. During that time, his name has regularly been featured in headlines, but he has been kept out of public view.
On Thursday, he returned to the spotlight, albeit one controlled by Chinese authorities.
Many observers had expected the high-profile court hearing in the eastern city of Jinan to stick to a script of accusation, admission and conviction. But Bo, 64, appeared to be unwilling Thursday to let all the prosecution's allegations against him go unchallenged.
The Thursday session has been adjourned and proceedings will resume at 8:30 a.m. local time Friday, the Jinan Intermediate People's Court said.
In posts about the proceedings on its official microblog account, the Jinan court said that Bo contested the claim that he had taken bribes from Tang Xiaolin, a businessman in the northeastern industrial city of Dalian, where Bo used to be mayor.
Bo said that he had previously accepted the charge "unwillingly" when he was being investigated by a party disciplinary commission. "But at that time, I didn't know the details mentioned above," he said, according to the court.
After watching a video in which Tang detailed how he sent Bo money, Bo remarked, "I saw an ugly performance by a person who sold his soul," the court said.
The prosecutor showed the court written testimony from Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, who was convicted last year of murdering a British businessman.
Gu's statement mentioned a safe the couple shared from which she took tens of thousands of dollars to cover expenses for her and their son, who was studying in Britain at the time.
Bo reportedly described Gu's testimony as "ridiculous" and questioned its reliability, as it came after she received a suspended death sentence for her murder conviction.
He then said that an accusation that another Dalian business executive, Xu Ming, gave him and his family a multimillion-dollar villa in the south of France is "totally false."
Although Chinese authorities had talked of a public trial for Bo, the former party boss of the sprawling southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, journalists from the international news media weren't allowed in the courtroom.
Reporters had to rely on the frequent updates from the court's microblog account and official state-run news outlets, as well as a separate briefing by officials.
As it dished out details through the day, the court's account on the Twitter-like Weibo service quickly gained tens of thousands of followers.
High conviction rate
It wasn't immediately clear whether Bo's denial of part of the allegations was an unexpected development. The court's publication of his comments suggested that authorities were comfortable with the situation.
And his rejection of bribery allegations doesn't mean the court will acquit him.
The conviction rate for criminal trials and their appeals in China -- where the party controls police, prosecution and courts -- stood at 99.9% in 2010, a U.S. State Department report cited the Supreme People's Court as saying.
Analysts have suggested that the court proceedings are more about settling Communist Party business than delivering justice.
"It's a political exercise," Joseph Cheng, a political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong, said before the trial started. "It is not a trial, per se, but a political settlement."
Bo's punishment will in part be retaliation for his audacity in challenging Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping and other top party leaders by pushing his own "Chongqing model" and engaging in public grandstanding, Cheng said.
First photos in more than a year