Ex-Leader of Pro-EU Scottish Separatists Charged with Attempted Rape

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LONDON (AP) — Former Scottish leader Alex Salmond, one of the country’s best-known politicians, appeared in court on Thursday on charges including attempted rape and sexual assault.

Salmond was arrested on Wednesday, and faces 14 charges: nine counts of sexual assault, two of attempted rape, two of indecent assault and one breach of the peace.

No further details were given, and Salmond was not asked to enter a plea.

“I am innocent of any criminality whatsoever,” Salmond said in a brief statement outside Edinburgh Sheriff Court. “I refute absolutely these allegations of criminality and I will defend myself to the utmost in court.”

Salmond stepped down as leader of the governing Scottish National Party in August.

Salmond denied any wrongdoing and sued the Scottish government over its handling of the claims.

Scotland’s highest civil court ruled earlier this month that the way the Scottish government handled the allegations against Salmond was unlawful, but that didn’t derail the police investigation.

Salmond led the pro-independence SNP for 20 years and headed Scotland’s semi-autonomous government as first minister from 2007 to 2014. A major figure on the Scottish political stage for decades, he led the SNP to its first majority government in 2011 and took Scotland to the verge of independence from the U.K. by holding a 2014 referendum.

He stepped down after the British unionists won by 55 percent to 45 percent.

Salmond’s longtime friend and political successor, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, said Thursday it would be “completely inappropriate for me or anyone else” to comment on a live legal case.

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