American rapper ASAP Rocky has told a court in Sweden that he did everything possible to avoid conflict with two men he says persistently followed the artist’s entourage in Stockholm, and that one of the men picked a fight with one of his bodyguards.
Rakim Mayers, the rapper’s real name, is accused along with two other men believed to be members of his entourage of beating a 19-year-old man, Mustafa Jafari, in central Stockholm on the evening of June 30.
Mayers told Stockholm District Court that Mr Jafari and his friend refused to leave the entourage alone despite several appeals, and claimed they appeared to be under the influence of drugs.
He said the situation started to get tense after Mr Jafari got into an argument with one of Mayers’ bodyguards near a fast-food restaurant where the rapper’s entourage had stopped to download an app to their phones to use electric scooters, which are widely available on the streets of Stockholm.
“After a while, my security guard started pushing him (victim) away, begging him to leave, go from there,” said Mayers, wearing an all-green inmate uniform.
He gave evidence that he and his entourage just wanted to “de-escalate” the situation.
“Me and my crew told them that, listen, don’t go where we are going, go the other way, we don’t want any trouble,” Mayers said.
But he said that Mr Jafari was persistent and just would not go away.
“I assumed that these guys were under the influence of some kind of drug,” Mayers told the court.
A full-scale brawl ensued a bit later at a nearby side street and prosecutors allege that Mayers and the two other suspects beat and kicked Mr Jafari while he was on the ground, and that Mr Jafari was hit with parts of or a whole bottle.
The rapper, 30, pleaded not guilty at the start of the trial on Tuesday, saying he acted in self-defence.
Swedish prosecutors told the court on Tuesday that Mr Jafari and a friend got into an argument with Mayers and one of his bodyguards near a fast-food restaurant where the rapper’s entourage had eaten.
Mr Jafari had told police earlier that he got angry as his headphones were broken during the initial argument with the bodyguard.
“When he (bodyguard) pushed me, I was both offended and surprised,” Mr Jafari said in court on Thursday.
“I followed them and said I was going to call the police … since he had broken my headphones.”
Mayers’ defence lawyer, Slobodan Jovicic, asked Mr Jafari whether he thought the rapper’s entourage acted the way it did out due to fear of Mr Jafari.
“Four or five people afraid of me, who’s not even half of their body size?” Mr Jafari replied.
Despite being asked several times, it was not clear why Mr Jafari wanted to contact Mayers’ entourage in the first place.
The trial has created a stir in US-Swedish diplomatic relations after President Donald Trump weighed in on the case in support of the Grammy-nominated recording artist.
Besides Mayers, Thursday’s court session is reserved for testimony from the alleged victim, his friend, witnesses and Mayers’ bodyguard.
His mother, Renee Black, and several of his relatives were present at the courtroom.
The case has also drawn the attention of American celebrities and Mayers’ fellow recording artists, including Sean “Diddy” Combs and Justin Bieber.
A social media campaign for his release, #JusticeForRocky, was created soon after his arrest.
Mr Trump has spoken with prime minister Stefan Lofven on the phone, offering to personally guarantee ASAP Rocky’s bail, but the Swedish leader said he could not interfere in a legal case.
Sweden does not have a bail system and Mayers has stayed behind bars despite Mr Trump’s intervention.
Mr Trump has sent Ambassador Robert O. Brien, the US special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, to Sweden to monitor the court proceedings.
If convicted, Mayers faces up to two years in prison.