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UK lawmaker acquitted of rape, sex assault charges

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LONDON (AP) — The former deputy speaker of Britain's House of Commons was cleared of rape and sexual assault on Thursday after a trial that threatened to end a high-flying political career.

Nigel Evans, a Conservative first elected to Parliament in 1992, was arrested last year. Prosecutors alleged he used his political position to sexually assault seven young men between 2002 and 2013, some of them inside the Houses of Parliament.

Evans accused the men of making up their allegations or exaggerating moments of "drunken over-familiarity."

Only one of seven men complained to police at the time of the alleged assaults, and three told the court they did not think Evans had committed a crime against them.

A jury at Preston Crown Court deliberated for less than six hours before clearing the politician of one count of rape, five sexual assaults, one attempted sexual assault and two indecent assaults.

Evans broke down in tears as the last "not guilty" was read out.

The 56-year-old resigned as deputy speaker after his arrest, but has remained in Parliament, where he now sits as an independent.

The case is the latest in a series of recent high-profile sex-crimes trials to end in acquittal, and some politicians called for prosecutors to review the way they handle sexual assault allegations.

"This case has highlighted serious concerns over how the police and the Crown Prosecution Service bring sexual offence cases to court," said Conservative lawmaker David Davis.

Outside court, Evans said he had "gone through 11 months of hell" but wanted to get back to work.

"All I can say is that after the last 11 months that I've gone through, nothing will ever be the same again," he said.

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