Frenchman at centre of Nobel Prize rape scandal in Sweden is jailed

The man at the centre of a rape scandal in Sweden that has rocked the body that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature, has been found guilty and jailed for two-years.

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 crisis, which emerged during the #MeToo campaign, forced the Swedish Academy to cancel this year’s literature prize and prompted some of its 18 members to quit.

Jean-Claude Arnault (pictured), a major cultural figure in Sweden , faced two counts of rape of a woman seven years ago

‘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. The injured party has been awarded compensation for damages,’ the Stockholm district court announced in its verdict.  The Court said the ruling was unanimous.

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.

Arnault is married to a member of the Swedish Academy which selects the Nobel Literature Prize winner, with the scandal prompting the cancellation 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.

The Frenchman also ran the Forum club, a meeting place for the cultural elite and popular among aspiring young authors hoping to make contact with publishers and writers. 

The revelations left the Academy, which had funded his club for years, deeply divided over how to manage their ties to him and his wife, poet Katarina Frostenson.

Eight of the 18 members have either resigned or are on leave now, and several of them regularly trade ugly barbs via the media.

In ruins and without a quorum to make key decisions, the Academy postponed this year’s Nobel Literature Prize, a first in 70 years.

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 oral sex and 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 was acquitted 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.

His accusers claim the Swedish Academy was well aware of his behaviour, and blame the institution for helping create a ‘culture of silence’ that pervaded Sweden’s cultural circles.

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

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

He has bragged about being the ’19th member’ of the Academy, and according to the internal probe, he leaked the names of Nobel literature laureates on several occasions.