Frenchman in Nobel rape scandal declares innocence at appeal

Sweden Published: Nov 12, 2018, 05:05 PM(IST)

Frenchman Jean-Claude Arnault leaves the court room. Photograph:( AFP )

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Several allegations against Arnault were dropped due to lack of evidence or because the statute of limitations had expired.

A Frenchman jailed for two years for rape in a scandal that led to the postponement of this year's Nobel Literature Prize declared his innocence Monday at the opening of his appeal trial.

Once an influential figure in Stockholm's cultural scene, 72-year-old Jean-Claude Arnault was found guilty in October of raping a young woman in 2011 and sentenced to two years in prison.

The case was one of the first big trials to come out of the #MeToo movement, and has left the venerable Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Literature Prize, in tatters.

Arnault, who has been locked up since his conviction by a district court, has insisted the sex was consensual, according to his lawyer.

He was escorted by police to the Stockholm appeals court, which was hearing the case behind closed doors.

"Jean-Claude Arnault insists on his innocence and therefore hopes to be acquitted," his lawyer Bjorn Hurtig said.

The defence team has asked to call Arnault's wife Katarina Frostenson, a Swedish Academy member who has rarely spoken out since the scandal erupted, as a witness.

"Frostenson has no credibility," Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the lawyer for the victim, told journalists.

"She is a character witness and character witnesses have no place in Swedish courts."

The scandal erupted in November 2017, one month after rape and sexual abuse accusations surfaced against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

At the time, Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter published the testimonies of 18 women claiming to have been raped, sexually assaulted or harassed by Arnault.

The Frenchman ran the Forum club, which he founded in 1989 as a meeting place for the cultural elite and which was popular among aspiring young authors hoping to make contact with publishers and writers.

The Swedish Academy, which funded his club for years, has 18 members and Arnault often referred to himself as its "19th member". He reportedly occasionally leaked the names of Nobel winners to friends.

The revelations have left the prestigious body deeply divided over how to manage its ties with Arnault and his wife, with some members quitting the Academy.

His accusers claim the Academy was aware of Arnault's behaviour but ensured that "a culture of silence" reigned in cultural circles.

Discredited and without a quorum to make key decisions, the Academy postponed the announcement of the 2018 Nobel Literature Prize for the first time in 70 years.

Several allegations against Arnault were dropped due to lack of evidence or because the statute of limitations had expired.

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