US rapper and two members of entourage accused of attack in Swedish capital on 30 June

A$AP Rocky has pleaded not guilty to assault at the start of his trial in Sweden in a case that has strained international relations after celebrity entertainers rallied to the US rappers cause and Donald Trump publicly demanded his release.

Prosecutors allege the platinum-selling artist, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, and two members of his entourage deliberately, together and in agreement attacked the alleged victim, Mustafa Jafari, in the Swedish capital on 30 June.

The men, who say they were responding to harassment and provocations, have been in custody since 3 July and face up to two years in prison if the charges, for assault causing actual bodily harm, are upheld. Their trial continues on Thursday and is due to close on Friday.

He admits that he threw the plaintiff on the ground, that he stepped on his arm and punched or pushed his shoulder, Mayers lawyer, Slobodan Jovicic, told the court, but insisted that it was a case of self-defence.


Who is A$AP Rocky?

Named after one half of the hip-hop duo Eric B. & Rakim, Rakim Athelaston Mayers was born in New York in 1988. He adopted the name A$AP Rocky when he began his career in 2007, joining the A$AP Mob crew.

Mayers had a troubled childhood. His elder brother was murdered, his dad was arrested for drug dealing, and he spent some time moving around homeless shelters with his mother and sister. His older sister died of a drug overdose in 2016. Mayers himself served two weeks in prison for drug dealing in 2004.

He came to prominence with the release of the mixtape Live.Love.A$AP in 2011. Having signed to a major-label deal for a reported $3m, his 2013 debut album, Long.Live.A$AP debuted at No 1 on the US Billboard 200. Follow-up At.Long.Last.A$AP was also a No 1 album in the US, certified as a platinum seller, and featured a seemingly unlikely collaboration with Rod Stewart.

His creative partner and best friend A$AP Yams (Steven Rodriguez) died in January 2015 in an accidental drug overdose. In 2016, Mayers became the first African-American to be the face of Dior Homme.

In 2013, he was charged with slapping a woman at Philadelphia’s Made in America festival. This was eventually settled out of court in 2015. He has been involved in other altercations, in Toronto, New Zealand, and London, the latterinvolving a bagel and an Uber in Brick Lane. He unexpectedly declared a love of the Piccadilly Line while delivering the Red Bull Music Academy lecturein the city, and has collaborated with British rapper Skepta on the acclaimed track Praise the Lord (Da Shine).

He has caused controversy by appearing to describe the Black Lives Matter movement as a bandwagon, saying I dont wanna talk about no fucking Ferguson and shit because I dont live over there. I live in fucking SoHo and Beverly Hills. I cant relate.

Photograph: John Ricard/Getty Images

Mayers, 30, dressed in prison uniform of a green T-shirt and trousers, sat near his mother, Renee Black, who appeared to have been crying, in the Stockholm district court but was not called to speak.

Entertainment industry figures including Kim Kardashian West, Justin Bieber, Post Malone and Shawn Mendes have backed a #JusticeForRocky campaign. The US president called the Swedish prime minister, Stefan Lfven, to ask that the rapper be freed on bail a system that does not exist in Sweden.

The public prosecutor, Daniel Suneson, showed the court phone and CCTV footage that he said showed Mayers and the two other men kicking and beating Jafari and hitting him with whole or part of a glass bottle.

Jafari is claiming SEK 139,700 (12,050) in damages for the alleged attack, arguing the perpetrator had shown great ruthlessness and cruelty. Suneson said the incident started outside a hamburger restaurant on Htorget in the city centre.

Rakim Mayers is depicted in a green shirt in a court sketch on Tuesday. Photograph: Anna Harvard/AP

Mayers and his five-strong entourage were approached by the plaintiff and another man who were argumentative and perceived as intrusive and difficult, the prosecutor said. This led to a confrontation in which a bodyguard first pushed away the plaintiff, then lifted him up by the throat, he said.

Suneson said Jafaris headphones were broken and thrown on to a restaurant awning during the initial brawl, which escalated in neighbouring Olofsgatan where the 19-year old, who was demanding his headphones back, was beaten, thrown to the ground and beaten again.

The prosecutor showed the court police photographs of bloodstains and broken glass left in the street, as well as of Jafaris injuries, which included a broken rib and cuts to his head, arms and legs that required hospital treatment and stitches.

He said the clips posted to the artists Instagram had been edited to remove evidence the bodyguard grabbed Jafari before to the fight, and presented text messages between members of Mayers entourage indicating the footage uploaded to Instagram had been cleaned up a bit.

Lawyers for Mayers and his entourage said Jafari had initiated the violence. They argued that the suspects had not broken any bottles, but that broken glass may have ended up on their shoes, causing the victimss cuts.

Cross-examined by Suneson, Jafari, an Afghan national, said he did not speak good English and had no intention of quarrelling, but had been attacked by Mayers group, at least two of whom tried to stab me with a broken bottle. He said he had been in pain and unable to work since the alleged attack.

Much of the video material emerged before the trial, posted both by the celebrity news website TMZ and by Mayers to his own Instagram account. The rapper wrote in a caption that two men had been following his group and one had hit a bodyguard in the face with headphones. He was innocent, he said.

Renee Black (second right), A$AP Rockys mother, arrives at the district court in Stockholm on Tuesday. Photograph: Fredrik Persson/AFP/Getty Images

One of the rappers lawyers, Martin Persson, told Aftonbladet newspaper the defence would present evidence suggesting it was not clear a bottle had even been used in the alleged attack, let alone by whom. We have an ace up our sleeve, he said.

The case turned into a minor diplomatic incident after Kardashian West appealed directly to Trump, prompting the president to tweet that he would call the very talented Prime Minister of Sweden to see what we can do about helping A$AP Rocky.

The two men spoke by phone, with Trump offering to personally vouch for [Mayers] bail, or an alternative. Lfven issued a statement saying that in Sweden the judicial system, prosecutors and courts were completely independent.

Trump subsequently tweeted that he was very disappointed in Lfven, adding: Give A$AP Rocky his FREEDOM. We do so much for Sweden but it doesnt seem to work the other way around. Sweden should focus on its real crime problem!

That drew an indignant response from several leading political figures in Sweden. The rule of the law applies to everyone equally and is exercised by an independent judiciary, tweeted the former prime minister Carl Bildt. Political interference is distinctly off limits. Clear?



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