STOCKHOLM — American rapper A$AP Rocky entered a not guilty plea on trial Tuesday in Sweden in a high-profile legal case that has caught the attention of U.S. President Donald Trump and celebrities. The Grammy-nominated rapper is charged with assault following a fight on a quiet street in Sweden’s capital last month.
Swedish prosecutors allege that Rocky and two other suspects, believed to be members of his entourage, “deliberately, together and in agreement” attacked the alleged victim, Mustafa Jafari, in central Stockholm on June 30.
Prosecutors alleged in more than 500 pages of court documents that the three suspects beat and kicked Jafari while he was on the ground and that he was hit by parts of or a whole bottle.
The trial of the 30-year-old recording artist, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, started in Stockholm District Court, which also has set aside Thursday and Friday for the case, though it may end sooner.
A$AP Rocky’s hearing is a big deal in Sweden, a country of 10 million that is known for its forested archipelagos, hip design and robust social welfare state. As journalists waited in a scrum to get into the trial, residents and curious passersby stopped by to see what all the fuss was about.
“I live around the corner, and for the last month A$AP Rocky has radically been my neighbor,” William Rosten, 26, who works in a clothing store, told USA TODAY. “I wanted to check this thing out. Sweden’s a pretty quiet place.”
Renee Black, A$AP Rocky’s mother, arrived at court, but she ignored reporters’ questions before taking a seat in the press gallery. She appeared “like she was about to burst into tears,” Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported. As the hearing got underway, a translator whispered in her ear from the row behind where she was sitting.
When the performer entered the courtroom in a pea green t-shirt and matching sweat shorts he briefly looked up at the press gallery appearing to seek out a known face, but did not make eye contact with his mother. He sat attentively throughout the proceedings as prosecutors showed photos and video of Jafari’s injuries and clothes stained with blood.
Lawyers for both sides were to present their narrative of what happened on the night of June 30 at Tuesday’s court session. Testimonies are expected to take place on Thursday.
The trial was being held in a secure courtroom “because of the large interest from the media and the public,” the Stockholm court said, noting that no photographing or filming will take place during the proceedings. The court is Sweden’s largest public court and it handles about 18,000 civil and criminal cases each year.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of two years in prison. Mayers has been in custody since July 3 and has said he acted in self-defense.
The rapper’s lawyer, Martin Persson, told Swedish public broadcaster SVT on Monday that he would present the court with new evidence, including showing that “no bottle has been used to hit or injure anyone” and that the violence used was “within the limits of the law.”
A lawyer for Jafari, Magnus Stromberg, told The Associated Press on Friday the beating started when one of A$AP Rocky’s guards “grabbed him (Jafari) by the neck and dragged him away” and that Jafari didn’t provoke the assault.
Prosecutors said that Mayers pushed Jafari to the ground and the court documents include numerous photos of Jafari’s cuts, bruises and blood-stained clothes.
Jafari, 19, is seeking 139,700 Swedish kronor ($14,700) in damages for his injuries, lost income and damages to his appearance.
A$AP Rocky’s supporters waited politely in line to get into the court with approximately 100 representatives from the Swedish and foreign press. The hearing is taking place next door to the detention center where the rapper is being held. A guard outside the facility said that the musician was being treated no differently to any other alleged perpetrator of a crime waiting for trail.
Ivan Waliullah, 32, a teacher at a middle school, who was waiting to get in, said he was angry that the authorities in Sweden decided to detain the rapper.
“He came here to entertain, and he got provoked by someone who isn’t even Swedish,” he said, referring to main complainant Jafari, an immigrant from Afghanistan , who has a previous conviction for drugs. “He was just defending himself,” he said.
President Trump blasts Sweden after rapper A$AP Rocky is charged with assault over fight
Mayers’ arrest prompted Trump to intervene on behalf of the jailed rapper and sparked an unusual diplomatic spat when Swedish prosecutors charged the 30-year-old artist last week.
Trump urged Sweden to “Treat Americans fairly!” on Twitter, and criticized Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven “for being unable to act.”
“We do so much for Sweden but it doesn’t seem to work the other way around. Sweden should focus on its real crime problem! #FreeRocky,” he added.
The case has also drawn the attention of American celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and Mayers’ fellow recording artists, including Sean “Diddy” Combs and Justin Bieber, and created the movement #JusticeForRocky soon after the rapper’s arrest.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: A$AP Rocky enters not guilty plea in Sweden trial