After American rapper A$AP Rocky was detained in Sweden earlier this month on a preliminary charge of assault, high-profile celebrities and politicians rushed to his defense — with President Donald Trump offering on Saturday to “personally vouch for his bail,” even though Sweden has no bail system.
Trump pleaded his case over a phone call with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.
The Prime Minister’s press secretary, Toni Eriksson, described the 20-minute conversation as “friendly and respectful,” the Associated Press reported. But Eriksson also said in a statement that Löfven “underlined that in Sweden everyone is equal before the law and that the government cannot and will not attempt to influence the legal proceedings.”
Trump had told reporters on Friday that “many, many members of the African American community have called me, friends of mine, and said could you help.” He added: “I personally don’t know A$AP Rocky but I can tell you that he has tremendous support from the African American community in this country and when I say African American, I think I can really say from everybody in this country, because we’re all one.”
A$AP Rocky, whose original name is Rakim Mayers, will be held for one more week in pre-trial detention in a Swedish jail after he was involved in a fight that broke out in downtown Stockholm earlier this month, the Associated Press reported. The court is expected to make a ruling on Friday.
The Grammy-nominated rapper was first detained two weeks ago, on July 3. He was in Sweden to perform at a music festival.
A video clip published by a Swedish newspaper appears to show the rapper violently throwing a man to the ground. Another video posted on celebrity news site TMZ shows A$AP Rocky and others punching a man on the floor.
A defense attorney representing A$AP Rocky has said the incident was an act of self-defense, the Associated Press reported. The rapper also posted a video on his Instagram that appears to show two men trailing him and one of them hitting his security person with his headphones.
A$AP Rocky had told the two men in the video: “We don’t want to fight you all, we’re not trying to go to jail.” He later addressed the camera, saying, “We don’t want no problems with these boys. They keep following us.”
One of the alleged victims in the case is also being investigated for abuse, assault and attempted assault, the BBC reported.
But that investigation was recently dropped, The Swedish Prosecution Authority said in a statement on Monday.
The rapper’s detention had raised concerns about poor conditions in the Swedish jail where he was staying, including unclean water, according to a report from TMZ.
But those allegations were quickly dismissed. The chief of the detention center where the rapper was being detained told one of Sweden’s largest newspapers that the agency could not comment on the treatment of individuals but noted the following: “We can however strongly deny the detention conditions that has been described by an article in TMZ. To give you one example, both inmates and the staff drink from the same municipal tap water.”
Why do Swedish prosecutors want to hold him longer?
On Friday, a Stockholm Court approved prosecutors’ requests to hold A$AP Rocky in detention for six more days because he was a flight risk, The New York Times reported.
Trump tweeted on Saturday that he had assured the Swedish prime minister that A$AP Rocky was “not a flight risk.”
The way the rapper has been treated is “standard, especially when you’re a foreign citizen and there’s a flight risk” and “you are suspected on reasonable grounds” says Dennis Martinsson, a senior law lecturer at Stockholm University, who has frequently spoken about the case for Swedish media.
“There have been a lot of misunderstandings about how the justice system works in Sweden,” Martinsson says. “I assume that people think we have a bail system and he was denied bail. We don’t have that system, so the only option is detention.”
Others believe that the court has somehow weighed in on his guilt by deciding to extend his detainment but “no Swedish court has said anything yet about whether he is guilty,” according to Martinsson.
The initial reaction from many in Sweden was that the international response was “blown out of proportion” and also that race was not an issue as was suggested in the U.S., he says.
There is no time limit for how long you can be detained under Swedish law but every two weeks the court has to reevaluate whether there is a continued need for detention. After the additional week of detention for A$AP Rocky elapses, there could be another negotiation or prosecutors could take the case to trial. The possibilities are still open in the rapper’s case, Martinsson says.
Anne Ramberg, the secretary-general of the Swedish Bar Association, also says the rapper’s treatment was “standard”, adding that “he probably would not have been detained” if he was a resident.
“We find it a bit awkward or strange, all this publicity,” Ramberg says. “Normally, it would be very surprising. When it comes to President Trump, maybe it’s not that surprising.”
Ramberg says the bar association has been “very critical” against detaining prisoners for long periods of time — sometimes years — without any formal charge, noting that Sweden has even been criticized by the U.N. and the European Union for it’s policy. “From a principle point of view, I think that’s a very important discussion to have,” Ramberg says. “But that is another issue.”
Ramberg added that the bar association does not support a bail system because it would give wealthier people an advantage. “We believe it has to be the same rules for everyone,” Ramberg says.
How is Kim Kardashian involved?
Trump’s remarks came shortly after Kim Kardashian West indicated that she lobbied the White House to secure the musician’s release.
This isn’t the first time Kim Kardashian West has tapped into her influence with the White House. She has frequently lobbied for issues related to criminal justice.
Last year, she teamed up with Kushner to free a 63-year-old woman who had been imprisoned without parole for a first-time, non-violent drug offense for more than two decades. President Trump later pardoned Alice Marie Johnson.
Who else is trying to help him?
Sean “Diddy” Combs, Nicki Minaj, Justin Bieber, Tyler the Creator and Shawn Mendes are just some of the high-profile musicians who have publicly declared their support for A$AP Rocky.
Bieber thanked Trump for helping the rapper and even took the opportunity to weigh on the border crisis — all in one Tweet.
Politicians have been vocal, too. U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat told the Associated Press that he was “speaking with the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Sweden and ask that everyone continues showing their support to help us in this process of getting justice for Rocky.”
A #JusticeForRocky petition circulating on change.org has gathered more than 600,000 signatures.
“Rocky has been in prison” for “the use of self-defense,” the petition states. “To keep Rocky and his colleagues in jail pending the lengthy trial proceedings is a punishment before the fact, with no due process.”
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