US rapper A$AP Rocky’s trial in Sweden entered its expected final day on Friday, with witnesses including his bodyguard taking the stand in an assault case that has caught the attention of Donald Trump and led fans to call for boycotting Swedish brands like Ikea.
The 30-year-old rapper, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, was arrested on July 3 along with three other people following a street brawl in Stockholm on June 30, which saw him and his crew embroiled in a fight with a 19-year-old plaintiff.
When Mayers arrived in court for the third day of the trial, where he stands 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.
Presiding judge Per Lennerbrant ruled Friday that a new piece of evidence submitted by the defense was allowed, overriding the prosecution’s objections.
It concerned a previous assault conviction against the plaintiff, which the defense argued spoke to the plaintiff’s reliability and previous behavior.
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’s 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.
Proceedings are scheduled to conclude with closing arguments in the afternoon, although Lennerbrant has indicated there could be an extension into next week.
The rapper, who has pleaded not guilty, saying he was acting in self-defence, faces up to two years in prison if convicted.
– ‘Scared’ –
When giving his own account of the events leading up to the brawl on Thursday, the rapper stressed that he felt “scared” and that he and his entourage had repeatedly told the plaintiff to leave them alone.
Mayers 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 were broken in an earlier scuffle with the rapper’s bodyguard.
Much of the trial has centered 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 edited.
– Fans urged to boycott IKEA –
Once the hearings conclude, the court will announce a verdict date and rule on whether the accused should be detained in the meantime.
Considered by the court to be a “flight risk”, the rapper has been held in custody since his arrest.
Fans, fellow artists and US Congress members have been campaigning for his release.
An online petition called #JusticeForRocky has garnered more than 640,000 signatures. Social media campaigns have urged fans to boycott Swedish brands such as IKEA.
US President Donald Trump has 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, has been sent to attend the trial.