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Deputy speaker of U.K. Parliament arrested on gay rape charge

AFP-JIJI

A deputy speaker of Britain’s lower house of Parliament was arrested Saturday on suspicion of raping one man and sexually assaulting another, according to media reports.

Nigel Evans, a lawmaker in Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party, was reportedly questioned over the alleged attacks on two men in their 20s.

Evans, 55, represents the Ribble Valley constituency in Lancashire, northwest England, and is one of the three deputy speakers of the House of Commons.

“A 55-year-old man from Pendleton in Lancashire has today, Saturday, . . . been arrested by Lancashire Constabulary on suspicion of rape and sexual assault,” the local police force said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the force later said the suspect had been released on bail until June 19.

Police said the alleged attacks took place in the village of Pendleton, where Evans lives, between July 2009 and March 2013.

Cameron has reportedly been informed of the arrest.

Evans revealed he was gay in 2010, eight years after he was elected to Parliament, saying he was “tired of living a lie.” He is a popular figure in London’s Westminster political hub, well-liked by lawmakers across the political spectrum.

His arrest stunned fellow Conservatives. “Everybody’s completely shell-shocked,” Michael Ranson, chairman of the Ribble Valley Conservative Association, told Sky News television. “He is a very popular MP (member of Parliament).”

Brian Binley, a Conservative lawmaker and a friend of Evans, said: “I was just deeply disturbed and shocked. I consider him to be a very good friend. I know him to be caring, compassionate and in no way would he inflict himself violently on any other person.”

As a deputy speaker, Evans has the authority to stand in for the speaker of Parliament, who is tasked with keeping order during debates.

The Welsh lawmaker also served as a vice chairman of the Conservative Party between 1999 and 2001, and was its spokesman on affairs pertaining to Wales for two years after that.

When he came out of the closed in 2010, Evans claimed that political opponents had threatened to reveal his secret.

“I could not afford it to be used as leverage against me. I couldn’t take the risk. I don’t want any other MP to face that kind of nastiness again,” he told The Mail on Sunday newspaper. “I am sure there are other gay MPs who would like to be open about their sexuality but are fearful of the consequences.”