Death penalty not excluded at 'gang of four' trial

The trail of Mao Tse-tung's widow Jiang qing and her associates will start within a month, and the death penalty is not excluded. These were teh highlights of a press conference given bya high-ranking spokesman for China's legislature, the National People's Congress, Sept. 29. A special court will be established with 35 judges sitting in two divisions to try the 10 principal defendants in what is officially called "the case of the Lin Biao-Jiang Qing counterrevolutionary group."

The first division will try the five civilians in the group -- the "gang of four," including Jiang qing, plus Chenc Boda, for many years Chairman Mao's secretary.

The second division, which is, in effect, a military court headed by Wu Xiuquan, deputy chief of staff of the People's Liberation Army, will try the remaining five -- all generals on the active list at the time of their arrest.

It is this second group, followers of Marshal Lin Biao, who are being accused specificallyu of plotting to murder Chairman Mao. Jiang Qing and her group are accused of "engineering a counterrevolutionary armed rebellion," the spokesman said. The spokesman is Zeng, Tao, deputy secretary-general of the NPC standing committee, president of the New China News Agency, and former Chinese ambassador to France.

The trial will be open to selected Chinese representatives from various parts of the country, the government, people's organizations, the People's Liberation Army, and the various political parties. After due consideration, it has been decided "not to invite the foreign press," Mr. Zeng said. Chinese leaders have previously said this is because state secrets are involved. The trial is being held under provisions of the criminal code that came into effect on Jan. 1, 1980 , Mr Zeng said. This code is part of the current leadership's effort to make China a country ruled by law, in which the lawlessness and arbitrary decisions of the 10-year period covered by the indictment (1966-76) and known as the Cultural Revolution will become possible.

The accused will have access to counsel and can call witnesses on their behalf, Mr. Zeng said. They are being tried only for their crimes in the strict legal sense, not for political or ideological errors. The verdict of the special court, to be headed by Jiang Hua, president of the Supreme People's Court, will be final. Although Hua Guofeng, Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, has told visitors that the death penalty will not be invoked, Mr. Zeng resolutely refused to exclude a death sentence as the ultimate outcome.

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