Lawyer wants acquittal of Jan Fabre in #MeToo case

How could Jan Fabre know that his behavior was unacceptable if he never received any complaints? Jan Fabre’s lawyer Eline Tritsmans wondered this on Friday during the second day of his trial. According to the Flemish newspaper The standard she pleaded in the Antwerp courtroom for acquittal for the controversial Belgian artist, who is facing three years in prison. “Fabre has not bullied or humiliated anyone and has not committed sexually transgressive behavior towards anyone.”

Also read: Jan Fabre’s art was all about real pain and real sex

A week earlier, Fabre was accused by the public prosecutor of violence, bullying and unwanted sexual behavior towards eleven dancers from his company Troubleyn and the indecent assault of one of them. Fabre was not present on both hearing days.

His lawyer also contradicts during the hearing that there is a culture of fear or a toxic work climate at Troubleyn. Anyone who had problems with Fabre’s method could have reported to his regular dramaturge Miet Martens at any time. According to Tritsmans, the prosecutors “stirred” each other up. It would be a form of collaborative storytelling, which means that the mutual explanations are aligned and mutually reinforced. “We are not saying that the statements are false, but they are not reliable.”

pillory action

The case came to the fore in 2018 when Fabre was accused of sexually transgressive behavior and abuse of power in an open letter, in response to Fabre’s statements that there were never any problems in that area in his company. Twenty (former) employees and trainees signed the letter.

Fabre’s defense spoke of a pillory action on Friday and stated that he has been walking around with the ‘guilty’ stamp ever since. An attempt was made to “dehumanize and demonize” him. According to Tritsmans, he had become the perfect symbol for the #MeToo movement. “Jan Fabre had to be cancelled.”

The lawyer pointed out that several statements made during the first day of the hearing were made twenty years ago and are therefore “largely out of date”. She said it was unfair to have a case about this now: both the law and the zeitgeist have now changed.

Anyone who works with Fabre would be aware of the artistic context, says Tritsmans. Fabre is known as a radical artist who demands the utmost from his employees. She understands that it can be “a lot”, but denies that there is any criminal act, bullying or violence. According to her, the controversial phrase ‘no sex, no solo’ is based on “gossip”.

Tritsmans disputes various incriminating testimonies made against Fabre a week earlier. “It takes more than just the subjective perception of the person making the complaint to be able to assess the situations described.”


Tritsmans also submitted a letter in which more than 160 Troubleyn employees state that they do not recognize themselves in the image of Fabre. 84 witnesses have stated under oath that there are no problems within Troubleyn with regard to the accusations that are central to this case.

At the end of the session, a letter from Fabre himself was also read. “I offer my sincere apologies to those who feel hurt, to those who have made me feel bad.” The verdict in the trial will follow on April 29.

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