Man at Center of Sweden Nobel Scandal Handed 2-Year Sentence for Rape

By Aron Lamm, Epoch Times
October 1, 2018 Updated: October 1, 2018

STOCKHOLM—The husband of a member of the Swedish Academy, which awards the world’s most prestigious literary prize, has been convicted of rape and sentenced to two years in prison.

Jean-Claude Arnault, 72, a powerful behind-the-scenes figure in Swedish cultural life for decades, is married to poet Katarina Frostensson, a member of the Swedish Academy, the elite group of 18 lifetime members responsible for selecting the recipient for the Nobel Prize in literature.

Apart from the sexual-misconduct allegations, Arnault has was accused of financial misconduct and leaking the names of Nobel Prize recipients in advance. The various scandals surrounding Arnault caused a serious rift in the Swedish Academy, and led to several resignations.

It was in the wake of the #MeToo movement that Arnault was publicly accused by multiple women of various levels of sexual misconduct. This is the only case that has so far gone to court; it concerns two counts of rape that allegedly took place in October 2011 against the same woman

Elisabeth Massi Fritz, lawyer of the victim
Elisabeth Massi Fritz, lawyer of the victim, after the final hearing of Jean-Claude Arnault at the district court in Stockholm, on Sept. 24, 2018. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

Arnault was only convicted of one of the two counts. The sentence, two years in prison, is the minimum sentence for rape in Sweden. Arnault also was ordered to pay the victim roughly $13,000 in damages.

The victim’s attorney, Elisabeth Massi Fritz, said that her client was “very relieved,” the Expressen newspaper reported.

“It’s been incredibly rough for her all these years, but when the verdict came today, it was all worth it,” she said.

The verdict is based mostly on the woman’s own story, as well as some corroborating evidence from people close to her, including journal notes by her therapist. The victim said she didn’t dare to report the rape to the police until years after it occurred, partly because of Arnault’s power in Swedish cultural circles.

‘Professional, dignified, and respectful’

The verdict was unanimous, according to Gudrun Antemar, head of the Stockholm District Court, who described the proceedings, which were mostly closed to the public, as “professional, dignified, and respectful” at a press conference following the verdict on Oct. 1.

The court’s decision last week to detain Arnault, who is a French national, was seen as an indication that he would be convicted. He will remain in custody until he begins to serve his sentence, partly because of his “weakened connection” to Sweden, Antemar said. At a press conference last week, following the decision to detain Arnault, prosecutor Christina Voigt said that “it might be tempting” for Arnault to leave the country.

Jean-Claude Arnault leaves the court room
Jean-Claude Arnault leaves the courtroom at the district court in Stockholm on Sept. 24, 2018. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

Arnault’s attorney, Björn Hurtig, has said earlier that Arnault would appeal if he was found guilty. Arnault denies all the charges.

The future of the Swedish Academy remains unclear, including how the Nobel Prize in literature will be selected in the future. It has already been decided that no literature prize will be awarded this year because of the situation, and Lars Heikensten, executive director of the Nobel Foundation, doesn’t rule out that the prize may be canceled next year as well, since the legitimacy of the Academy has been damaged.

An employee hands out the court findings at the district court in Stockholm
An employee hands out the court findings at the district court in Stockholm on Oct. 01, 2018. (Anders Wiklund/AFP/Getty Images)

Heikensten told Swedish Television (SVT) that the main problem isn’t the different allegations against Arnault, but the fact that the Academy handled both the initial allegations and the subsequent public crisis so poorly.

“They need to elect new members who were not involved in these events, and who are also competent,” Heikensten told SVT. “They need to investigate the bias and the breach of confidentiality and demonstrate that they respect their own regulations. And they need to form a Nobel Committee that is not tainted by these events.”