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Former top Northern Irish politician Jeffrey Donaldson to stand trial over alleged sex offenses

The former leader of Northern Ireland’s most prominent pro-union party, Jeffrey Donaldson, will stand trial over allegations of historical sex offenses including one charge of rape.

Donaldson stepped down as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in March after he was charged with 11 sexual offenses.

The politician has since been charged with a further seven offenses. The 18 alleged offenses include: one charge of rape, 13 charges of indecent assault of a female child and four charges of gross indecency towards a child.

Donaldson was asked in court if he wanted to comment on the charges, according to PA Media. “Not at this stage,” he replied, the news agency reported.

His wife Eleanor Donaldson is also set to stand trial in September and has been charged with one charge of aiding and abetting rape, three charges of aiding and abetting assault of a female child and one charge of cruelty towards a person under the age of 16.

Donaldson led the DUP from 2019, throughout much of the turbulent Brexit process, regularly voicing his opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol, a key part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement that ensured there was no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Both Donaldson and his wife have previously denied all charges, Irish public broadcaster RTÉ reported Wednesday.

Donaldson’s trial was announced as people in Northern Ireland were preparing to vote in the UK general election. As one of the UK’s four devolved nations, Northern Ireland has 18 seats in the Westminster parliament. Northern Irish politicians can choose to either run for a seat in Westminster or for a seat in the devolved legislature, the Northern Ireland Assembly. Lawmakers from the leading Nationalist party, Sinn Féin do not take up their seats in Westminster if elected.

Donaldson had been slated to run again in the Lagan Valley constituency but has been replaced by former DUP party colleague Jonathan Buckley.

This post appeared first on cnn.com

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