ASAP Rocky: US rapper released from Swedish custody pending assault verdict

ASAP Rocky: US rapper released from Swedish custody pending assault verdict
Fans celebrated outside court on Friday evening. Photo: Fredrik Persson/TT
US rapper ASAP Rocky has been released from custody pending the verdict of a Swedish assault trial that has sparked international debate.

The 30-year-old rapper, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, was arrested on July 3rd following a street brawl in Stockholm on June 30th, which saw him and his crew embroiled in a fight with a 19-year-old plaintiff.

But on the last day of his trial the court decided to release him, pending the verdict.

“Rakim Mayers… (and the two others accused) are no longer going to be remanded in custody,” presiding judge Per Lennerbrant told the Stockholm district court, adding that the court's verdict would be made available on August 14th.

READ ALSO: How does Sweden's criminal justice system work?

Earlier in the day, when Mayers arrived in court for the third day of the trial, where he stood accused with two others, he was dressed in a dark suit instead of the green prison clothes he had worn in court on Tuesday and Thursday.

Fans gathered outside the courthouse, shouting “Free Rocky” and “Free Flacko”, invoking the rapper’s different nicknames while playing his songs over loudspeakers.

The presiding judge ruled that a new piece of evidence submitted by the defence was allowed, overriding the prosecution’s objections.

It concerned a previous assault conviction against the plaintiff, which the defence argued spoke to the plaintiff’s reliability and previous behaviour.

Throughout the day, the court heard the testimony of two young women, the plaintiff’s friend – all present at the brawl – as well as a social worker who testified about the plaintiff’s psychological state following the incident.

Mayers’ bodyguard was also called to the stand and testified that the plaintiff had been “harassing” and “following” the group and “swung” at him prior to the fight.

Prosecutor Daniel Suneson argued in his closing statement on Friday that he should be jailed for about six months.

“I don't see how anything but prison is up for discussion,” he told the Stockholm district court.

“The court should reach the conclusion that the assault (…) should have a penalty of about six months.”

The rapper, who pleaded not guilty, insisted he acted in self-defence.

“It is my opinion that there is no basis to believe that the description of the crime applies to my client, (and) that he should be acquitted and set free today,” his lawyer, Slobodan Jovicic, told the court.

Jovicic rejected the prosecution's claim that the three accused had acted together.

When giving his own account of the events leading up to the brawl on Thursday, Mayers stressed that he felt “scared” and that he and his entourage had repeatedly told the plaintiff to leave them alone.

He conceded he threw the plaintiff to the ground and “kicked his arm”, but denied the prosecution's claim that a bottle was used and insisted he only acted after the accuser and his friend began attacking his bodyguard.

The plaintiff has alleged that he was attacked by Mayers and his entourage when he followed them to ask about a pair of headphones that had broken in an earlier scuffle with the rapper's bodyguard.

Much of the trial has centred around analyzing videos and whether bottles had been used as weapons during the alleged assault.

In one video published by US celebrity news outlet TMZ, the rapper can be seen throwing a young man to the ground and apparently aiming several punches at him while he is down.

The court has also been shown videos posted on the artist's Instagram account, purporting to show the lead up to the brawl in which Mayers appears to repeatedly ask the man and his friend to stop following him and his entourage. The prosecution has argued that the Instagram videos were heavily

Considered by the court to be a “flight risk”, ASAP Rocky had been held in custody since his arrest. Fans, fellow artists and US Congress members had been campaigning for his release.

An online petition called #JusticeForRocky garnered more than 640,000 signatures and social media campaigns have urged fans to boycott Swedish brands such as Ikea.

US President Donald Trump repeatedly called for the rapper to be freed, drawing complaints of interference from Swedish politicians. The US special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, Robert C O'Brien, was sent to attend the trial.

Swedish media also reported on Thursday that the US embassy had sent a request to the Swedish Prosecutor General, to allow the rapper and the two others to stay in a hotel rather than the remand prison where they were being held.

“We responded that's not how it works in Sweden,” Karin Rosander, communications director at the Swedish Prosecution Authority, told the newspaper Expressen. 

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