Chinese officials on Thursday hailed the trial of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's former Chongqing secretary Bo Xilai for corruption and abuse of power as a triumph for the rule of law, but rights lawyers agreed with Bo's own criticisms that there are legal holes in the case against him.
Liu Yanjie, a spokesman for the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, where the official record of Bo's long-awaited trial was relayed by live blog posts, said Thursday's hearing last around three hours.
"The court session proceeded in an orderly fashion," Liu told reporters after the court adjourned until Friday.
"The court hearing was conducted based on the principles of judicial openness, equality before the law, and strict adherence to legal procedures," he said.
He added: "The defendant Bo Xilai was emotionally stable and physically healthy during the trial."
According to the official news agency Xinhua, the court "approved all applications by Bo ... to express his views."
Bo's conduct during the trial was a far cry from the submissive stance reportedly adopted by his wife Gu Kailai, who was handed a suspended death sentence in August 2012 for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, or by Bo's former right-hand man and police chief Wang Lijun, currently serving 15 years for corruption and defection.
Bo retracted parts of his confession, saying it had been extracted from him "against his will," and dismissed his wife's written testimony to bribery charges, saying such statements weren't admissible in court.
According to top Beijing rights lawyer Mo Shaoping, Bo's legal judgement is largely correct.
"The evidence collected by the Party disciplinary commission isn't strictly speaking admissible for use in criminal court proceedings," Mo said after the trial adjourned on Thursday.
"That has to be subjected to a record of enquiry by the procuratorate and the courts before it is admissible in court."
Meanwhile, Beijing-based rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said the trial was in breach of parliamentary regulations governing the make-up of the bench of judges and court officials.
"Decisions by the standing committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) carry the weight of law ... but they didn't focus on the special regulation which says there should be a People's Assessor in full court," Liu said.
"I think that this is a breach of the NPC standing committee regulations."
Bo mounted an unexpectedly spirited defense during Thursday's session, leading some to question whether his comments were part of a pre-arranged script, or whether they had departed from it.
He denied taking $3.5 million in bribes from businessmen, cross-examining one of them, and dismissing Gu's evidence out of hand.
Gu's account said the couple kept safes in their various homes across China in which piles of cash were stashed.
But Bo called her testimony "comical, very funny," questioning her reliability as a witness and citing her history of mental illness, as well as her murder conviction.
"I'm not a perfect man, and not a strong-willed person," Bo told the court. "I'm willing to take responsibility for that."
"But regarding the basic facts of whether I am guilty or not, I must have my say."
The trial resumes for a second day on Friday. State media said a decision is expected in early September.
Few in China expect anything but a guilty verdict and a lengthy jail term for Bo, whose ouster came after Wang fled to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu on Feb. 6, 2012 after a violent confrontation over Gu's involvement in Heywood's death.
Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese Service and by Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.