ASAP Rocky to Stand Trial in Sweden on Assault Charge
The rapper ASAP Rocky was charged on Thursday with having committed an assault causing actual bodily harm on June 30 in central Stockholm, Swedish prosecutors said in a statement.
The prosecution will proceed “despite claims of self-defense and provocation,” the public prosecutor for Stockholm, Daniel Suneson, said in an email.
The rapper will remain in custody until a trial begins on Tuesday, the Swedish Prosecution Authority said in a statement.
The punishment for Rocky could include a fine based on his daily earnings or a maximum two years in prison, a spokeswoman for the Swedish Prosecution Authority, Annika Collin, said in a telephone interview.
Two members of Rocky’s entourage also face a trial.
The development will sharpen the focus on a case that started as a street brawl, but has ballooned into a diplomatic incident, with Sweden facing accusations of racism and human rights abuses for its treatment of the rapper.
Rocky, 30, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, is accused of assaulting Mustafa Jafari in Stockholm on June 30 after an altercation in the street that was captured on video. The rapper and two other men were detained on July 5 as prosecutors investigated the matter.
Rocky’s lawyer says the rapper acted in self-defense. On July 2, Rocky posted two videos on Instagram that his lawyer says show Mr. Jafari following and harassing the rapper, despite being repeatedly asked to stop.
But Mr. Suneson, the prosecutor, said Mr. Jafari had been punched, kicked and struck with a glass bottle in an attack that lasted several minutes.
Mr. Suneson said he had more evidence than the video clips that were published to Rocky’s Instagram and on websites including TMZ. That included footage from CCTV cameras and witness statements, he added.
Rocky’s lawyer, Slobodan Jovicic, did not respond immediately to an email and telephone call for comment.
Rocky’s case was initially treated as a minor incident, but rapidly escalated after the rapper was detained and tour dates were canceled. Pop stars including Justin Bieber shared a Change.org petition created by Rocky’s team that demanded his release. More than 600,000 people have signed.
As the clamor to free Rocky grew, the case went all the way to the White House: On Saturday, President Trump called Prime Minister Stefan Lofven of Sweden to discuss the rapper’s detention.
Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he told the prime minister he would “personally vouch” for Rocky’s bail if he were released, although Sweden has no system of bail, and usually keeps foreigners accused of crimes in detention because of the flight risk.
Mr. Lofven’s office said in a statement on Saturday that the 20-minute phone call had been cordial but that the prime minister insisted he would not intervene, and “underlined that in Sweden everyone is equal before the law.”
The storm did not settle despite Mr. Trump’s intervention. “I don’t want to call the race card,” Renee Black, Rocky’s mother, told the gossip site TMZ on Monday, “but that’s what it’s looking like.” “If it walk like a duck and it quack like a duck, then it’s a duck,” she added.
Lovette Jallow, a human-rights activist in Sweden and commentator on race issues, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that “racism in Sweden is very problematic.” “But it is not a case of racism in the ASAP Rocky case,” she added.
On Thursday, Expressen, a Swedish newspaper, reported that Mr. Jafari is 19 and comes from Afghanistan.
Magnus Stromberg, Mr. Jafari’s lawyer, would not confirm his client’s nationality in a telephone interview on Thursday, but said he was an immigrant. “He has only stayed in Sweden for a few years,” Mr. Stromberg said in an earlier phone call.
His client “had no previous knowledge of ASAP Rocky before this incident,” Mr. Stromberg said.
“He is under a lot of pressure and he doesn’t feel secure,” Mr. Stromberg said. “This is not a racist prosecution,” he added. “The prosecutor has analyzed the case thoroughly and handled it impartially.”
Prosecutors investigated Mr. Jafari on accusations of “abuse and assault,” after Rocky’s bodyguard said the man had hit him during the altercation, but that case was dropped on Monday, the Swedish Prosecution Service said in a statement.
The man did hit the bodyguard, the statement added, but in self-defense.
Alex Marshall is a European culture reporter, based in London. @alexmarshall81
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