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Man banned from Nobel Prize party over sex assault claims

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Man banned from Nobel Prize party over sex assault claims
The 2016 Nobel Prize banquet in Stockholm's City Hall. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT
11:53 CET+01:00
A man with close links to the Swedish Academy – which hands out the Nobel Literature Prize – has been banned from the awards ceremony after sexual assualt accusations.

Eighteen women accused the man – a well-known figure on Stockholm's cultural scene – of sexual assault and harassment, detailing the allegations in an article by the Dagens Nyheter (DN) daily this week.

Swedish author Gabriella Håkansson told the newspaper he touched her inappropriately at a party in 2007, in front of her boyfriend. "He didn't say many words before he grabbed me between my legs, and did a pussy grab. It was like he was digging. Nothing motivated the incident, and there had been no flirtation or touch. I just found a hand up my crotch," she told DN. She slapped him in the face and he then left the room.

Several other women describe similar incidents (with accusations dating from 1996 to 2017), with one telling DN one of the incidents took place at the Nobel Prize banquet, the royal party to celebrate the Nobel laureates.

Some of the incidents were witnessed by other people, and some allegedly took place in apartments owned by the Swedish Academy in Paris and Stockholm's Old Town.

"He asked me to give him a blow job, and first I did it voluntarily. But then he took hold of my head. He kept holding on to me. I couldn't move, and I was so scared. I didn't know how to get out of there. It felt like my fear turned him on. When I wanted to end the relationship he never stopped calling me, and he didn't stop until I changed my number," one woman, not named, told DN.

Neither she, nor anyone else, reported it to the police.

READ ALSO: Sweden's response to the global #MeToo movement

Stefan Ingvarsson, today counsellor for cultural affairs at the Swedish Embassy in Moscow, said he had witnessed incidents and would no longer stay silent about what he described as a "collective shame".

"I was brave once when I was young. When I was working for a small publisher and he assaulted a colleague at one of our parties I threw him out," he told DN.

"He shouted at me: 'Do you know who I am? I'm going to ruin your career!' But the more established I got, the more cowardly I felt. When I got a job at a significantly larger company it felt impossible to act considering all his contacts. And I also ran the literature festival Stockholm Literature, which is extremely dependent on the Swedish Academy."

The man, an artistic director at a club in Stockholm often frequented by members of the Swedish Academy, declined to respond to the accusations when approached by DN, but wrote to the newspaper's reporter in a text message: "I have not done anything!!!"

Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said the Nobel Prize body would cut all ties with the man and would stop the financial funding of the cultural club in Stockholm.

"There are two things to say about this. One is that the actions of the artistic director are deeply obscene. Far beneath decent human behaviour. The other thing I can say is that the artistic director has implicated the Swedish Academy in his actions, which is enough for the Academy to want to cut the ties to this artistic director," Danius told DN.

Lars Heikenstein, executive director of the Nobel Foundation, told the newspaper by e-mail that the man – who is not directly involved in the Swedish Academy's work – would not be allowed to attend the Nobel Prize banquet on December 10th.

"Everyone understands that this person has no say in the decision about who receives the Nobel Prize in Literature, but when an institution that elects a Nobel Prize laureate is in a situation like this there is obviously a risk that it affects the Nobel Prize negatively."

"We have been in contact with the Swedish Academy about this person's attendance during the Nobel day. We have agreed that he will not be attending the Nobel festivities."

In the wake of assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and the global '#MeToo' movement in which women have shared their own experiences of assault, thousands of women across several different industries in Sweden have spoken out.

Women working in media, unions, academiatechlaw, politicsmusic, and theatre have signed petitions describing sexual harassment and assault in their own industries.

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