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Frenchman in Nobel scandal sentenced to 2 years in jail for rape

(AFP) – A Swedish court has sentenced a Frenchman at the heart of a Nobel scandal to two years in jail for rape in a scandal that emerged during the #MeToo campaign.

An influential figure in Stockholm’s cultural scene, 72-year-old Jean-Claude Arnault went on trial last month on two counts of rape relating to incidents dating back to 2011.

In its ruling on Monday, the Stockholm district court found him guilty on one of the charges while acquitting him of the other.

“The defendant is found guilty of rape committed during the night between the 5th and 6th of October 2011 and has been sentenced to imprisonment for two years,” a court statement said. “The injured party has been awarded compensation for damages.”

Prosecutors had called for a minimum sentence of three years in what was one of the first big trials to come out of the #MeToo movement.

“There is no reason why the sentence should be less than two years,” presiding judge Gudrun Antemar told a press conference, saying the victim had been put in a situation where she was “helpless.

Arnault is married to a member of the Swedish Academy which selects the Nobel Literature Prize winner, with the scandal prompting the postponement of this year’s award.

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

At the time, Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter published the testimonies of 18 women claiming to have been raped, sexually assaulted or harassed by Arnault, who had close ties to the Academy.

Discredited, divided

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 who are elected for life and Arnaut often referred to himself as its “19th member”.

But the revelations have left the prestigious body deeply divided over how to manage its ties with him and his wife, poet Katarina Frostenson.

Eight of its members have either resigned or are on leave, and several of them regularly trade ugly barbs via the media.

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.

“It is great that justice has been served and that the court noted the gravity of such (Arnault’s) crimes,” Peter Englund, who stepped down from the Academy in April, told the TT news agency.

‘Intense fear’

Prosecutors investigating the allegations against Arnault dropped several of them due to lack of evidence or because the statute of limitations had expired.

The two counts of rape involved one woman.

According to the prosecution, Arnault allegedly forced the woman — who was in a state of “intense fear” — to have an intercourse in a Stockholm apartment on October 5, 2011.

He was also accused of raping her during the night of December 2-3 while she was asleep but the court found there was insufficient evidence to convict him on that charge.

The trial was heard behind closed doors to protect the victim, whose identity has not been disclosed.

Arnault has maintained his innocence from the start. He has been held in preventive custody since the end of his trial on September 24 and will remain in jail until the formal start of his sentence, the court said.

Culture of silence  

His accusers claim the Swedish Academy was well aware of his behavior, and blame the institution for having helped create a “culture of silence” that pervaded Sweden’s cultural circles.

An internal Academy probe concluded there were conflicts of interest between Arnault and the Academy, and that several female Academy members and people close to them had been harassed or assaulted by the Frenchman.

It also found he had leaked the names of Nobel literature laureates to his friends on several occasions.

According to Svenska Dagbladet daily, Arnault was born in Marseille in 1946 to Russian refugee parents and came to Sweden in the late 1960s to study photography.

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