Ex-Scottish leader begins defense against sex crimes claims

International

Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond arrives at the High Court for the first day of his trial, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Monday, March 9, 2020. Salmond, one of the country’s best-known politicians is on trial for a total of 14 charges of attempted rape, sexual assault and indecent assault against 10 women. (Andrew Milligan/PA via AP)

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LONDON (AP) — Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond denounced some of the sex-crimes charges against him as “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose” as he began giving evidence at his trial on Tuesday.

Salmond told the High Court in Edinburgh on Tuesday that he had a “consensual sexual liaison” with a woman who alleges he tried to rape her.

Salmond, 65, denies 13 sex-crime allegations against nine women. One charge by another woman was dropped Monday.

A former Scottish government official, who is being referred to as Woman H, previously told the court she felt “hunted” by Salmond moments before an alleged attempted rape in the first minister’s official residence, Bute House in Edinburgh, in June 2014. She also said she had been sexually assaulted by him the previous month when he allegedly kissed her face, neck and touched her legs.

Salmond said no incidents took place during those months, but that there had been a “sexual encounter” in the previous year following a dinner and that “one thing led to another.”

Salmond said the woman’s account of an alleged attempted rape in June 2014 was “not true” and she was not at Bute House on the night in question.

He said Woman H was “one of my biggest cheerleaders,” but seemed “annoyed” after he didn’t help her professionally in 2015.

Salmond also told jurors that he has never had a non-consensual relationship with a woman in his life, but that he wished he had been more “careful” with personal space.

“I’m of the opinion, for a variety of reasons, that events are being reinterpreted and exaggerated out of all possible proportion,” he said.

Asked why, he said: “There were two reasons — one is that some, not all, are fabrications, deliberate fabrications for a political purpose. Some are exaggerations taken out of proportion.”

Salmond led the pro-independence Scottish National Party for 20 years and headed Scotland’s semi-autonomous government as its first minister from 2007 to 2014.

A major figure on the Scottish political stage for decades, he took Scotland to the verge of independence from the U.K. by holding a 2014 referendum on separation. He stepped down as leader after the “remain” side won the vote 55% to 45%.

The trial, which began March 9, is expected to last four weeks.

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