March 23 (UPI) -- A jury in the high court in Edinburgh found former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond not guilty Monday after a 10-day trial over sex abuse claims.
The 65-year-old appeared relieved as the jury found him not guilty of 12 charges against nine women, the Scotsman reported. The jury also found that a further charge of sexual assault with attempt to rape was not proven.
The not proven verdict falls short of finding him not guilty but leaves him innocent in the eyes of the law.
The accusations spanned from June 2008 to November 2014 and ranged from stroking a civil servant's hair to attempting to rape a colleague in a bedroom in his official residence in Edinburgh.
All nine women are current or former Scottish government officials or Scottish National Party politicians.
After the verdict, Salmond thanked his legal team, family, friends and supporters outside the court.
"Ladies and gentleman, just over a year ago when we finished the civil action and judicial review, I said I'd great faith in the court system of Scotland, that faith has been much reinforced today," Salmond said. "So I would like to start by explaining that faith and thanking the jury for their decision. I'd also like to thank the courts service who've been courteous beyond limit over the last two weeks and to the police officers who've manned this trial under these extraordinary circumstance.
"Obviously above all, I'd like to thank my friends and family for standing by me over the last two years," he added. "I'd like to thank my brilliant legal team who are absolutely exceptional. I'd like to thank all of the people who have sent so many messages over the last 18 months or so but particularly in recent days."
Salmond also said that there was even more evidence he would have liked to have seen at trial.
"As many of you know there is certain evidence I would like to have seen led in this trial but for a variety of reasons we weren't able to do so," he said. "At some point, that information, that facts and that evidence will see the light of day but it won't be this day."
He suggested the reason evidence hasn't come to light includes concern about the coronavirus pandemic.
"And it won't be this day for a very good reason, and that is whatever nightmare I've been in as of these last two years, it is as nothing compared to the nightmare that every single one of us is currently living through."
He urged everyone to "go home."
"I know it's your job but it ain't safe and my strong, strong advice to you is to go home, those who can and are able to, take care of your families and god help us all."
The case still "remains a national political scandal," due to "lack of information" Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said, and there will be an opportunity for further inquiry, but that must be delayed because the focus now is to curb COVID-19.