U.S. rapper A$AP Rocky pleads not guilty in Stockholm assault case

STOCKHOLM: U.S. rapper A$AP Rocky pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to a charge of assault on the first day of a trial in Sweden that has drawn international attention and prompted President Donald Trump to intervene on the artist’s behalf.

The 30-year-old performer, producer and model, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, was detained on July 3 in connection with a street brawl in Stockholm on June 30, and later charged with assault causing actual bodily harm.

Mayers’ lawyer, Slobodan Jovicic, told the judge his client, sitting next to him in prison clothes of a green t-shirt and trousers, pleaded not guilty to the charge of assault and had acted in self defense.

Outlining his case using videos from security cameras and witnesses’ mobile phones, prosecutor Daniel Suneson said that following an altercation, Mayers threw the plaintiff on the ground, after which he and two of his entourage kicked and punched him while he was lying on the ground.

The prosecutor also said a bottle was used to hit the 19-year-old man.

Mayers has said the plaintiff provoked him and his two companions, who are also charged with assault. If convicted at the Stockholm district court, they could face up to two years in jail.

The case has drawn huge media attention, forcing the trial to be moved to a secure courtroom where more than 50 journalists as well as Mayers’ mother watched proceedings.

Both Mayers and the plaintiff will face cross-examination later on Tuesday.

Mayers’ detention before his trial has prompted angry responses from fans as well as from several artists and other celebrities ranging from Kim Kardashian to rocker Rod Stewart.

Trump had asked Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven to help free Mayers, and later tweeted messages saying he was “very disappointed” in Lofven and demanding: “Treat Americans fairly!”

Trump had said he would personally vouch for Mayers’ bail. Sweden does not have a bail system.

Lofven has said he will not influence the rapper’s case. Sweden’s judiciary is independent of the political system.

Present at the courthouse was U.S. diplomat Robert C. O’Brien.

“Special Envoy Ambassador O’Brien traveled to Sweden at the request of the White House. One of the most important tasks of the Department of State and U.S. embassies and consulates abroad is to provide assistance to U.S. citizens who are detained abroad. We engage on these cases at all levels to fulfill our mission to U.S. citizens,” a spokeswoman at the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm said in an email.

Swedish fan Ivan Waliullah said “I’m here to show support,” adding he thought the three were being charged unfairly.

Mayers, best known for his song “Praise the Lord”, was in Stockholm for a concert. He has had to cancel several scheduled shows across Europe due to his detention.

Before his arrest, Mayers uploaded videos on Instagram of the moments before the alleged assault, saying two men were following his team and that he did not want any trouble.

Mayers shot to fame with his 2011 debut “Live.Love.A$AP”. His latest album, “Testing”, reached the No. 4 spot on the Billboard 200 charts on its release last year.

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