Public prosecutor asks 3 years imprisonment for artist Jan Fabre in #MeToo trial

Artist and theatre director Jan Fabre risks three years effective imprisonment. That is the demand of the Public Prosecutor's Office in the #MeToo case against the internationally renowned artist tried by the correctional tribunal in Antwerp today and on April 1. Three years effective is the maximum sentence for the offences of harassment, violence and sexual harassment in the workplace he is accused of, but less than the five years' imprisonment that he could receive for the other charge of indecent assault.

Fabre was accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault, abuse of power, intimidation, and bullying by twenty former employees of his dance group Troubleyn back in 2018. At that time, Fabre was an artist of great international standing. The Antwerp-born multidisciplinary artist's work has been exhibited at the Louvre in Paris and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. In 2003, he redecorated the ceiling of the main hall of the Belgian royal palace.

During the hearing, the labour auditor came down hard on Fabre. "I can't imagine a worse case than this in terms of transgressive behaviour at work", she said. "The careers of young women have been shattered, they have been paying the price for the defendant's behaviour for years."

According to the prosecution, Fabre engaged in public humiliation, systematically ignoring and punishing people, using nicknames based on skin colour or appearance, sexual advances, inappropriate touching and inviting dancers to his hotel room, among other things. "The list is endless, as is the list of testimonies," said the auditor. "The statements of victims and witnesses are convincing, credible and correspond to statements in the report of Troubleyn's prevention adviser."

The auditor also spoke of a "culture of fear" and a "threatening environment in which no one dared contradict the accused". Fabre is said to have abused his position of power in relation to young dancers in order to solicit sex. The Public Prosecutor also considers the sexual assault of an employee proven, with the additional aggravating circumstance of abuse of authority in relation to the victim. Fabre is said to have confessed to kissing the dancer in question, but stated that it happened with her consent. "That is not credible", says the auditor. "But even then he should have known better given his hierarchical position."

Fabre denies the allegations. "He does not show any sense of guilt, quite the contrary", says the auditor. "He even continues his behaviour, according to the latest reports from the prevention advisor. He also interrogates employees about what they have said and they have to send him an e-mail stating that they will remain loyal to him. The defendant believes himself to be God."

The defence, which is due to speak next week, still wants the prevention adviser's documents to be excluded from the file because of alleged professional secrecy. The documents are said to include testimonies from 35 people, with similar stories to those of the civil parties. "For this case, I have only summoned the victims who have come forward (in the open letter, ed.)," the auditor adds. "I respect the choice of the others who did not."


Picture: Jan Fabre ​ during the press opening of two exhibitions at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels, Belgium in 2018 © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM



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