EDINBURGH, Scotland (AFP) — Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond arrived in court Monday for the start of his trial for a string of alleged sexual offenses, including an attempted rape at his official residence in 2014.
Salmond, 65, wearing a dark suit, said nothing to reporters as he entered the High Court in Edinburgh for the case, which is scheduled to last four weeks.
Salmond, who led the devolved government in Edinburgh from 2007 to 2014, faces two counts of indecent assault, 10 of sexual assault, an attempted rape and a sexual assault with intent to rape, according to the indictment.
The case is being held before a 15-member jury and a judge.
Salmond told reporters outside the court when he was charged in January 2019: “I am innocent of any criminality whatsoever. I refute absolutely these allegations of criminality and I will defend myself to the utmost in court.”
Salmond, who is married and a former economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland, took over the leadership of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in 1990.
He led the unsuccessful SNP campaign for Scottish independence in a referendum in 2014.
He left office at the end of that year and was replaced by Nicola Sturgeon, who has revived calls for a new referendum after Britain’s departure from the European Union.
Salmond, who lives in northeast Scotland, has since been employed as a talk show host by Russia Today.
The prosecution alleges in the indictment that the offenses 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 the Scottish capital.
He is alleged to have repeatedly kissed a woman’s face and neck, groped her, pinned her against a wall, pulled at her clothes and stripped himself naked then try to rape her.
The other offenses are alleged to have taken place at a nightclub and a restaurant.
Under Scottish law, none of the 10 alleged victims can be identified.
Strict media reporting restrictions are in place to prevent information not presented before the jury in court from prejudicing the trial.
Salmond himself could be called to give evidence, although he is under no obligation to do so, as the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
Unlike in England and Wales, which has a separate legal system, there are three possible verdicts: guilty, not guilty and not proven, which has the same status in law as an acquittal.
The jury’s decision need not be unanimous. A majority verdict needs only eight of the 15 jurors to agree.
At the end of the prosecution evidence, the defense can also argue there is no case to answer and that the evidence is not strong enough to put before the jury.
Should the judge agree, the accused can be acquitted.
© Agence France-Presse