EDINBURGH, United Kingdom (AFP) — Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond on Tuesday claimed some of the sexual assault claims against him were fabricated for political reasons, as he began giving evidence at his trial.
Salmond, who led the Scottish National Party’s unsuccessful 2014 campaign for independence, is on trial at the High Court in Edinburgh, charged with 13 sexual offenses against nine women.
He denies the charges. His legal team has submitted special defences of consent and alibi.
“From where I stand now, I wish I had been more careful with people’s personal space, but there was no intention whatsoever to offend,” he told the court.
“But I’m of the opinion, for a variety of reasons, that events are being reinterpreted and exaggerated out of all possible proportion.”
The judge on Monday formally acquitted Salmond of one charge of sexual assault after prosecutors offered no evidence, reducing the total from 14 charges against 10 women.
It is alleged the offenses took place at various locations across Scotland between June 2008 and November 2014, and include one charge of attempted rape at his official Edinburgh residence.
He is alleged to have repeatedly kissed her face and neck, groped her, pinned her against a wall, pulled at her clothes and stripped himself naked before trying to rape her.
The woman claimed Salmond also attacked her on a separate occasion in May 2014.
Salmond told his lawyer Gordon Jackson under questioning that “in general” he had no problems with female staff, although he had been “made aware” of one incident.
He told the court one of the alleged incidents — that he asked a woman to recreate a Christmas card design of a man and a woman about to kiss under the mistletoe — was “misremembered.”
The woman — a civil servant — on Monday said she “felt like (she) was wrestling with an octopus” and the alleged incident left her “quite alarmed.”
Salmond on Tuesday dismissed the alleged assault as “a joke” and “hijinks.” “It was not meant to be anything more than that,” he added.
But he told the court some of the charges against him were “fabrications” and “exaggerations.”
“There were two reasons — one is that some, not all, are fabrications, deliberate fabrications for a political purpose,” he said.
“Some are exaggerations taken out of proportion.”
Salmond, who is married and a former economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland, took over the leadership of the SNP in 1990, standing down after the failed referendum.
He was replaced by Nicola Sturgeon.
by Stuart GRAHAM
© Agence France-Presse