Former Scottish first minister Salmond cleared of sex charges

Edinburgh (AFP) –


Scotland's former first minister Alex Salmond was on Monday acquitted of attempted rape and a string of sexual assaults, including one of intent to rape.

The 65-year-old, who led the Scottish National Party's unsuccessful 2014 campaign for independence, was acquitted of all 13 charges against him after an 11-day trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Salmond -- one of Britain's most recognisable politicians who since stepping down has worked as a chatshow host on Russia Today -- showed little emotion as the verdicts were returned.

He spoke only to thank two court security officers and the judge, Leeona Dorrian, according to an AFP reporter in court.

Outside court, he told reporters his faith in Scottish justice had been restored, thanking the jury, the courts, his legal team, friends, family and the public for messages of support.

He promised that evidence that could not be put before the court would eventually come out but as the country faced up to the coronavirus outbreak, that would be done at a later date.

"Whatever nightmare I've been in over the last two years is as of nothing compared to the nightmare every single one of us are living through," he said in a brief statement.

"People are dying. Many more are going to die... My strong, strong advice to you is to go home, those who can and are able to take care of your families. And God help us all."

Salmond was originally charged with two counts of indecent assault, 10 of sexual assault, an attempted rape and a sexual assault with intent to rape.

But the judge formally acquitted him of one charge of sexual assault after prosecutors offered no evidence during the trial.

The prosecution alleged the offences were committed at various locations across Scotland between June 2008 and November 2014.

The most serious allegation of attempted rape is said to have happened in June 2014 at the first minister's official Bute House residence in Edinburgh.

The jury returned not guilty verdicts on 12 of the charges, including the alleged attempted rape, and not proven on one charge of assault with intent to rape.

Under Scots law, not proven has the same legal status as an acquittal.