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Trial begins of opera star Beltran

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12:06 CET+01:00
The trial has begun in Ystad of opera star Tito Beltran, who is charged with raping a then 18-year-old woman on a June night in 1999.

Beltran, 42, denies raping the woman at his hotel room in Nötesjö after returning from his performance at a star-studded Rhapsody in Rock concert in southern Sweden.

Both sides do however agree that the woman, who worked as a nanny for actress Maria Lundqvist, joined Beltran in his hotel room after the show. There the opera singer massaged the woman's aching back.

From this point on their stories differ. The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claims that the singer forced her onto his bed and proceeded to rape her.

Beltran's lawyer Tomas Nilsson however said that his client respected the woman's requests not to go any further after they had kissed and lain together on the bed.

According to Nilsson, Beltran and the woman then dosed of, sleeping for what she considered an "inappropriately long time". She later made up her mind to lay the blame for the encounter on Tito Beltran.

"This was then blown out proportion before growing into a rape allegation," he said.

The woman's lawyer, Sweden's former Justice Minister Thomas Bodström, said that, while the rest of the trial was public, his client would testify behind closed doors.

"Otherwise she won't be able to speak freely," he said.

Prosecutor Anna Håkansson has called for Beltran to be convicted of rape, while Bodström demanded damages of 100,000 kronor for his client.

Tomas Nilsson rejected both the criminal charge and the compensation claim. He and Beltran are of the opinion that a number of people met up with each other years after the event to form a conspiracy against the opera singer.

The alleged rape was not reported to the police until the spring of 2007, after Beltran had been cleared of another alleged sex crime by Varberg District Court.

A large media presence assembled in Ystad on Friday, with some of Sweden's most popular entertainers set to take the witness stand.

Tito Beltran is scheduled to testify on Friday afternoon. Later in the trial, former Eurovision Song Contest winner Carola Häggkvist will be joined in the courtroom by Maria Lundqvist and singer Lill Lindfors.

Rhapsody in Rock creator Robert Wells and conductor Anders Berglund will testify over the phone as they are both out of the country.

Defence lawyer Bodström is something of a celebrity in his own right. The former footballer and justice minister is currently Social Democratic chairman of the parliamentary justice committee.

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