- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 19, 2018

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) - The man at the center of a sex-abuse and financial crimes scandal that is tarnishing the academy that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature went on trial in Sweden Wednesday.

Jean-Claude Arnault, a major cultural figure in the country, faces two counts of rape of a woman in 2011 before the Stockholm District Court.

The French citizen is married to poet and member of the Swedish Academy Katarina Frostenson. He has denied the rapes and other sex abuse allegations.

The proceedings, which will include testimonies by the alleged victim and seven witnesses, are being held behind closed doors. Closing remarks are expected Sept. 24. It was not clear when a verdict would be announced.

Arnault, wearing a white scarf and a dark coat, made his way through dozens of reporters seeking comments at the court house. He declined to answer questions and simply asked them to “leave me alone.”

Bjorn Hurtig, his lawyer, has said his client is the victim of “a witch hunt” that “may only have the purpose of harming” Arnault.

The woman’s lawyer, Elisabeth Massi Fritz, told Swedish news agency TT that one of the difficulties with the trial was that the crimes had been committed seven years ago.

“She carries on traumatic experiences, but she will get through this in a very good way,” Massi Fritz said.

The scandal led to seven academy members either being forced to leave or quitting. Frostenson quit in April at the same time as former permanent secretary Sara Danius.

In May, the academy announced that no prize will be awarded this year.

Arnault also has been suspected of violating century-old Nobel rules by leaking names of winners of the prestigious award - allegedly seven times, starting in 1996. It was not clear to whom the names were allegedly disclosed.

All the allegations have shredded the body’s credibility, called into question its judgment and kicked off a debate over how to face up to its flaws. It has divided the group’s 18 members - who are appointed for life - into hostile camps and prompted seven members of the prestigious institution to leave or disassociate themselves from it.

Many in the Scandinavian nation, known for promoting gender equality, have expressed dismay over the scandal, which has exposed bitter divisions within the academy and given rise to accusations of patriarchal leanings among some members.

It began in when 18 women came forward in a Swedish newspaper with accusations against Arnault.

In April, the Swedish Academy said an internal investigation into sexual misconduct allegations found that “unacceptable behavior in the form of unwanted intimacy” has taken place within the ranks of the prestigious institution.

The internal probe eventually led to a police investigation.

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