Trump rebukes Swedish PM, demands freedom for US rapper A$AP Rocky
US President Donald Trump launched a new row with yet another American ally Thursday, lashing out at Sweden’s prime minister while demanding freedom for US rapper A$AP Rocky who is to be tried in the country on assault charges.
The comments came after a Swedish court earlier in the day decided that A$AP Rocky, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, will be tried for an alleged assault next week over a June street brawl.
In addition to the US president, the move is likely to infuriate fans already indignant over Mayers’ three weeks in custody.
“Very disappointed in Prime Minister Stefan Lofven for being unable to act. Sweden has let our African American Community down in the United States,” Trump tweeted, adding: “Give A$AP Rocky his FREEDOM.”
The case has seen repeated attempts at intervention by Trump, whose narrow path to reelection in 2020 is in part being made all the harder due to deep unpopularity among black voters.
Trump has already suggested paying bail for Mayers, despite Sweden not having bail in its justice system.
And he has repeatedly attempted to persuade Lofven to intervene, despite the premier’s reminder that the courts are independent from political leaders in Sweden — as they are in the United States.
The 30-year-old rapper was arrested on July 3 along with three other people, following the brawl in Stockholm on June 30. One of them, the rapper’s bodyguard, was later released.
Prosecutor Daniel Suneson said in a statement Thursday morning that he was pressing charges “against the three suspects for assault, because in my judgement what has happened amounts to a crime, despite the objections about self-defense and provocations.”
Part of the fight was captured in an amateur video published by US celebrity news outlet TMZ. The rapper later published videos of his own to Instagram purporting to show the lead-up to the fight.
Mayers has said he was acting in self-defense and responding to harassment by the plaintiff, a claim with which Trump agreed.
“I watched the tapes of A$AP Rocky, and he was being followed and harassed by troublemakers. Treat Americans fairly!” Trump said.
But Suneson said he has “more material to consider than what has been available on the internet.”
Trump’s latest tweets used language echoing complaints made against other traditional US allies that the US president has pulled into tense disputes over trade and military cooperation.
“We do so much for Sweden but it doesn’t seem to work the other way around. Sweden should focus on its real crime problem!” Trump said.
Heading to trial
According to the charge document filed with the Stockholm District Court, the evidence includes surveillance footage, witness testimony and text conversations that the prosecutor says prove there was no need for self-defense and that a bottle was used as a weapon in the alleged assault.
Magnus Stromberg, the plaintiff’s lawyer, told AFP his client suffered injuries that were “serious, nasty and he has been in a lot of pain.”
On July 5 the court ordered Mayers kept in custody pending investigation as he was considered a “flight risk.”
Suneson’s decision to press charges means the rapper can be kept in custody until his trial next week.
The trial is scheduled to take place over three days, starting on July 30.
Assault carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail in Sweden.
Mayers’ lawyer Slobodan Jovicic told reporters the decision was “expected” and his client maintains his innocence.
The musician, who had his breakthrough in 2011 with the release of the mixtape “Live. Love. A$AP”, was on a European tour and has already had to cancel over a dozen shows.
Since his arrest, fans, fellow artists and US Congress members have campaigned his release.
An online petition called #JusticeForRocky has garnered more than 620,000 signatures. The rapper’s detention has also led to accusations of racism by the Swedish justice system.
In May of last year, fellow rapper G-Eazy was charged with violence against a public servant, resisting arrest and possession of narcotics in Sweden, but was released after pleading guilty and fined 80 000 kronor (around $8,500 or 7,600 euros) after a day and a half in custody.
In an Instagram post G-Eazy, who is white, said the difference between his and A$AP Rocky’s treatment was a sign of “white privilege” and “racism.”
Responding to a question about whether law enforcement’s handling of the case indicated racism, Mayer’s lawyer Jovicic told reporters Thursday that he thought Sweden was “not a racist society.”