Scottish Politician Alex Salmond Has Been Charged With Sexual Assault And Attempted Rape

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The previous leader of Scotland's government, former First Minister Alex Salmond, was charged with sexual assault and attempted rape on Thursday. He was arrested the day before and went to the police station voluntarily with a duty solicitor, The Guardian reports. Salmond has denied the allegations.

"Let me say from the outset, I am innocent of any criminality whatsoever," he said in a statement outside Edinburgh Sheriff court on Thursday, per The Guardian. "Now that these proceedings, criminal proceedings are live, it is even more important to respect the court."

Salmond led Scotland's government as its first minister from 2007 to 2014, stepping down after the country's unsuccessful referendum for independence, which he championed. Salmond was the country's longest-serving chief, according to the BBC. He was succeeded by Nicola Sturgeon, his deputy first minister, who is still in office.

"The only thing that I can say is I refute absolutely these allegations of criminality and I will defend myself to the utmost in court. I've got great faith in the court system in Scotland," Salmond said Thursday. "You know me well enough to know that I'd love to say a great deal more, but I have got to observe the rules of the court and in court is where I will state my case."

Salmond was charged with attempted rape on two counts, sexual assault on nine counts, indecent assault on two counts, and breach of the peace on one count. The New York Times reports that prosecutors haven't disclosed what the accusations against him involve, but that the investigation began when he was accused of sexual harassment and assault by two Scottish civil servants. One alleges that he took her aside at an event while he was first minister and kissed and groped her without consent, according to New Statesman America.

When the women came forward, the government opened an investigation into their accusations that was partially overseen by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. According to New Statesman, Salmond and Sturgeon had a falling out over the investigation.

Sturgeon spoke to reporters briefly about her predecessor's charges on Thursday. "These are now live criminal proceedings," she said, "and that means now more than ever it would be completely inappropriate for me, or anyone else for that matter, to comment in any detail."

After the government opened its inquiry, Scottish police began its own investigation. The Scottish tabloid Daily Record has reported that the police may be investigating not only the civil servants' accusations, but also incidents that allegedly occurred at Edinburgh Airport in 2018.

Salmond has said that he's innocent of all accusations made against him. "I have made many mistakes in my life, political and personal, but I have not sexually harassed anyone," Salmond told the BBC last year. "And I certainly have not been engaged in criminality."

Salmond hasn't yet filed a plea in court and was released from the police station on bail. The BBC reports that there is currently no date set for his next hearing.