Rape trial of man at centre of Nobel scandal starts Wednesday

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Jean-Claude Arnault arrives at the district court in Stockholm

Jean-Claude Arnault arrives at the district court in Stockholm, Sweden September 19, 2018. TT News Agency/Fredrik Sandberg via REUTERS

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The man at the centre of a scandal that has engulfed the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Prize for Literature, will stand trial on Wednesday for rape.

The scandal has forced the Academy to cancel this year's Literature prize, which would have been announced next month, and has thrown it into its worst crisis since its founding more than 200 years ago by the Swedish king.

Jean-Claude Arnault, 72, who is married to a member of the Academy, has been charged with two counts of rape against a woman in Stockholm seven years ago.

Arnault's lawyer says he denies the allegations. Arnault has also denied unrelated allegations of being the source of leaks of the names of some past winners before the formal announcements.

Prosecutors closed another preliminary investigation into a number of abuse allegations against Arnault earlier this year, citing insufficient evidence and because for some the statute of limitations had expired. He has been accused by 18 women of sexual harassment and assault.

Two of the Academy's 18 members have resigned over the institution's handling of the crisis. Several - including Arnault's wife - are not taking part in the Academy's work as a consequence of the row but have not formally resigned.

After cutting ties with Arnault, the Academy held a vote on whether to exclude his wife from the body for allegedly breaching conflict of interest rules and divulging names of prize winners to her husband, who could then leak them.

The motion failed but prompted the series of departures.

With the headcount down to only 10 and statutes saying 12 are needed to vote in new members, previous Permanent Secretary Sara Danius and two other members who have effectively left the Academy have said they are willing to take part in important votes such as filling vacant seats.

Until earlier this year when King Carl XVI Gustaf revised the rules, members of the Academy were not allowed to resign.


(Reporting by Daniel Dickson; Editing by Gareth Jones)