STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - U.S. rapper A$AP Rocky will go on trial for assault in Sweden on July 30 over his alleged involvement in a street brawl in Stockholm, the Swedish public prosecutor announced on Thursday, prompting an angry response from President Donald Trump.
Best known for his song “Praise the Lord”, the 30-year-old performer, producer and model, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, was detained about three weeks ago following an altercation with two men on June 30.
Mayers has said he is innocent and that the men provoked him and his two companions who have also been charged with assault. If convicted, they could face up to two years in jail.
Trump, who last week urged Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven to free Mayers, fired off a pair of Twitter messages saying he was “very disappointed” in Lofven and demanding: “Treat Americans fairly!”
“We do so much for Sweden but it doesn’t seem to work the other way around. Sweden should focus on its real crime problem! #FreeRocky,” Trump wrote.
The U.S. president 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.
More than half a million people, including fellow artists Nicki Minaj and Post Malone, have signed an online petition calling for Mayers’ release on bail.
Public prosecutor Daniel Suneson said he had begun criminal proceedings against Mayers and two others for suspected assault causing actual bodily harm, despite claims of self defence and provocation.
“The artist is the one who threw the victim to the ground and then, together with two other suspects, dealt him blows and kicks. A bottle was used during the assault and there are cuts on the arms and (on) the plaintiff’s ear,” Suneson told Reuters.
“Provocation is something that I, as prosecutor, must always take into account, but I still believe that what they have done constitutes a crime,” he said.
Suneson declined to say which of the suspects had wielded the bottle in the fight. Court documents described the plaintiff as a person needing a Persian translator, but did not provide any further details.
Mayers’ lawyer said the rapper would plead not guilty at the trial when it begins on Tuesday.
“Mayers is extremely marked by the time he has been detained. It is tough to be basically isolated,” lawyer Slobodan Jovicic said at a news conference.
“We have to be humble but I definitely think there are grounds for an acquittal,” he said.
Suneson said he would seek a sentence of less than 2 years. He said he had looked at evidence including text messages and video footage that has not been made public.
Before his arrest, Mayers had uploaded videos on Instagram of the alleged altercation, saying the two men had followed his team and that he had not wanted any trouble.
Mayers, also known by the pseudonym Lord Flacko, was in Stockholm to perform at the Smash hip-hop festival. His detention has forced him to cancel a dozen shows scheduled as part of his Europe tour.
Mayers shot to fame with his 2011 debut mixtape “Live.Love.A$AP”, gaining recognition as much for his experimental approach to music as for his unpredictable fashion style that made him the first person of colour to front luxury brand Dior Homme.
His latest album, “Testing”, bagged the No. 4 spot on the Billboard 200 charts on its release last year.
Reporting by Esha Vaish and Johan Ahlander in Stockholm, additional reporting by Edward Baran, Helena Soderpalm and Johannes Hellstrom; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Diane Craft