Frenchman at center of Nobel scandal goes to trial for rape

September 20, 2018

STOCKHOLM -- The man at the centre of a sexual assault scandal that prompted the Swedish Academy to postpone this year’s Nobel Literature Prize goes on trial Wednesday for two counts of rape that emerged during the #MeToo campaign.

Frenchman Jean-Claude Arnault was an influential figure on Stockholm’s cultural scene for decades, until the explosive sexual assault accusations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein sparked a wave of similar allegations around the world.

Married to Katarina Frostenson, a member of the Swedish Academy which has been selecting Nobel literature laureates since 1901, Arnault ran the Forum club in Stockholm, a key meeting place for the cultural elite and a popular spot among aspiring young authors hoping to make contact with publishers and writers.

One month after the rape and sexual abuse accusations against Weinstein, Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter in November 2017 published testimonies of 18 women claiming to have been raped, sexually assaulted or harassed by Arnault.

He is due to appear in Stockholm’s district court on Wednesday to face two charges of rape against one woman.

As with other Swedish cases involving sexual crimes, the proceedings could be held behind closed doors.

According to the charge sheet, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, the 72-year-old allegedly forced the victim — who was in a state of “intense fear” — to have oral sex and intercourse in a Stockholm apartment on October 5, 2011.

Arnault, who has denied the allegations, is also accused of raping her during the night of December 2-3 in the same apartment while she was asleep. He faces up to six years in prison if found guilty.

The victim’s identity has not been disclosed.

Both the defense lawyer and the attorney representing the victim have declined to comment ahead of the trial.

Arnault’s lawyer has previously told AFP that his client would contest the charges.

The scandal rocked the Swedish Academy due to its long-standing and close ties to Arnault.

An internal investigation by the Academy revealed that several members, as well as wives and daughters of members, had also experienced “unwanted intimacy” and “inappropriate” behaviour from the accused.