Explained: The assault case against rapper A$AP Rocky, and the US govt’s curious interesthttps://indianexpress.com/article/explained/us-rapper-asap-rocky-donald-trump-release-sweden-5875908/

Explained: The assault case against rapper A$AP Rocky, and the US govt’s curious interest

Video footage published by the tabloid Aftonbladet appeared to show Rocky and his associates fighting with two men. As the video circulated, clips were posted on A$AP Rocky’s Instagram account showing a security guard telling locals to stop following the artist.

Explained: The assault case against rapper A$AP Rocky, and the US govt's curious interest
A$AP Rocky, 30, whose given name is Rakim Mayers, and his associates Bladimir Corniel and David Rispers pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting a 19-year-old resident of Stockholm. (File)

An assault case against American rapper A$AP Rocky, tried in Stockholm, has captured the public imagination with celebrities including US President Donald Trump campaigning for his release. On Friday, on conclusion of a trial conducted in the Stockholm District Court since July 30, Rocky was released from jail, with the court allowing him — and two others tried — to leave Sweden ahead of the verdict on August 14. Rocky has since reached the US.

What is the case about?

The alleged assault happened on June 30 and charges were formally pressed after three weeks in detainment. A$AP Rocky, 30, whose given name is Rakim Mayers, and his associates Bladimir Corniel and David Rispers pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting a 19-year-old resident of Stockholm.

Video footage published by the tabloid Aftonbladet appeared to show Rocky and his associates fighting with two men. As the video circulated, clips were posted on A$AP Rocky’s Instagram account showing a security guard telling locals to stop following the artist. This was to publicly provide Rocky’s version of the events, to show that Rocky and his associates had been acting in “self-defence”. Rocky went on to perform at the Smash Festival in Stockholm, only to be arrested later that evening.

How did the case proceed?

On July 25, the rapper was formally charged by Swedish prosecutors who said the “events in question constitute a crime… despite claims of self-defence and provocation.” They said Rocky and his associates “deliberately, together and in agreement” hit the alleged victim with a bottle.

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During a trial hearing on August 2, prosecutors asked the court for a six-month sentence for Rocky. Presiding judge Per Lennerbrant ordered Rocky and his associates to be released from detention pending the final verdict.

Rocky missed scheduled performances in Norway and Poland, throwing into jeopardy his plans of performing live across Europe to promote his 2018 album, ‘Testing’. Rocky’s lawyer, Henrik Olsson Lilja told The New York Times in an interview that a Swedish court had determined Rocky to be a flight risk and had hence decided to extend his detention. Rocky appealed his detention in the Supreme Court of Sweden, which rejected it.

Why is there so much interest?

The conversation surrounding the case has had less to do with the alleged assault than with the government and celebrity campaign on his behalf. While he was in detention, US politicians held a press conference on July 17 and called for the State Department and the embassies of the US & Sweden to work to free him.

On Friday, two leaked documents surfaced on Twitter. One of these was written by Robert O’Brien, US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, addressed to the Swedish Prosecution Authority on July 31, days before the trial in A$AP Rocky’s case ended. In fact, US media reported that O’Brien was in Sweden to monitor the trial.

In his letter, O’Brien wrote that the US government “wants to resolve this case as soon as possible to avoid potentially negative consequences to the US-Swedish bilateral relationship”, implying that diplomatic relations between the two nations would face “negative consequences” if A$AP Rocky’s assault charge was not resolved quickly.

The second leaked letter dated August 1 showed the response by Sweden’s Prosecutor-General, Petra Lundh to O’Brien’s letter. “No other prosecutor, not even I, may interfere with a specific case or try to affect the prosecutor responsible. Furthermore, when a person is charged and the case is brought before a court, only the court can decide, during or after the trial, whether or not to release the person or decide on supervised detention,” wrote Lundh.

How has Trump been involved in the case?

The decision to send the government hostage negotiator is being seen as an indication of Trump’s personal involvement in the developments of the case. The letters follow Trump’s repeated public demands for Rocky’s release and his attempts at intervening by discussing the case with Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven. In one of his many tweets on the case, Trump said he had even offered to pay Rocky’s bail. The Swedish justice system does not have bail.

On July 25, Trump tweeted, “Very disappointed in Prime Minister Stefan Löfven for being unable to act. Sweden has let our African American Community down in the United States. I watched the tapes of A$AP Rocky, and he was being followed and harassed by troublemakers. Treat Americans fairly! #FreeRocky”

After the latest court order, Trump tweeted: “A$AP Rocky released from prison and on his way home to the United States from Sweden. It was a Rocky Week, get home ASAP A$AP!”