updated 5/8/2006 9:29:58 AM ET 2006-05-08T13:29:58

A judge said Monday that former Deputy President Jacob Zuma and an HIV-positive family friend who accused him of rape had consensual sex, finding him not guilty in a case that sent mixed messages on AIDS and sexual violence in South Africa.

Zuma’s supporters rose and cheered as the judge completed an hours-long reading of his verdict with the “not guilty” conclusion. Zuma remained seated, showing no emotion.

In his verdict, Van der Merwe rejected the accuser’s argument that she saw Zuma as a father and said he had difficulty accepting the prosecution’s version of their sexual encounter.

He said she could have left immediately after the alleged rape, but chose to stay the night and wandered around the house for more than an hour the next morning, making herself food and using the phone before leaving for work.

The judge also said she had a history of making rape claims that turned out to be false, and said he did not believe that Zuma would risk raping her when a police guard and his daughter were nearby.

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