The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Jean-Claude Arnault, photographer at the center of Nobel Prize scandal, found guilty of rape

Arnault was accused of sexual assault and harassment by 18 women.

Jean-Claude Arnault arrives at district court in Stockholm for the start of proceedings last month. (Fredrik Sandberg/TT News Agency/AP)
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Not too long ago, Jean-Claude Arnault was a kingmaker in the artistic world. The French photographer ran the Forum club, a popular cultural venue in Stockholm funded in part by the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Prize in literature. His wife was a member of the Academy.

Then, last November, 18 women came forward to accuse Arnault, 72, of sexual assault or harassment. Their stories, published in a Swedish newspaper, spanned more than 20 years. Many said the violations happened at the Forum or other Academy-owned spaces in Paris and Stockholm.

Most of the alleged attacks were too old to prosecute. But days after the story was published, a woman went to the police to accuse Arnault of raping her twice in 2011. Once, she said, Arnault forced her to perform oral sex, grabbing her neck so she couldn’t move. Another time, she said, he raped her as she slept.

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The woman, a writer and academic whose name has not been released publicly, said she did not come forward earlier because Arnault was friends with her boss, and she feared for her professional livelihood.

After an investigation, Arnault was charged with two counts of rape. And on Monday, after a three-day trial, a Swedish court found him guilty. He was sentenced to two years in prison, the minimum required under Swedish law.

Arnault has denied the charges, calling the proceedings a “witch hunt,” and has said he will appeal his conviction.

Elisabeth Massi Fritz, an attorney for the victim, said the verdict was “a big relief” for her client. It’s “a victory for justice,” she said, adding that it undermines “the culture of silence that surrounds rapes and sex crimes.”

Photographer embroiled in Nobel literature prize scandal is charged with rape

The revelations about Arnault roiled the Swedish Academy. After the November article, there were calls for the body to cut its ties with Arnault and rescind the membership of his wife, poet Katarina Frostenson. The board voted to keep Frostenson on, leading to a wave of resignations. Frostenson later resigned as an active member.

Because of the chaos, the Academy did not select a 2018 winner for the Nobel literature award, which would have been announced this fall. The organization, which has selected the literature winner since 1901, said it will name two winners next year. But Lars Heikensten, director of the Nobel Foundation, warned that it could take much longer.

The prize “will be awarded when the Swedish Academy has won back the public’s trust,” he told public broadcaster Sveriges Radio.

The verdict was announced just a few minutes before the first Nobel Prize of 2018 — in physiology or medicine.