By Sanya Mansoor
July 30, 2019

Rapper A$AP Rocky took the stand in Sweden Thursday to testify that he acted in self-defense after pleading not guilty to assault charges.

The New York-born musician said he did everything possible to avoid conflict with two men who he says followed his entourage, the Associated Press reported.

A$AP Rocky, 30, alleged that the men appeared to be under the influence of drugs and said the alleged victim, Mustafa Jafari, provoked his bodyguard, who then “started pushing him (victim) away, begging him to leave, go from there.

”A$AP Rocky has been in custody since July 3 after a fight broke out in Stockholm. He could face up to two years in a Swedish prison if convicted.

The court’s ruling may come down to whether the alleged victim was struck with a bottle — a topic discussed at length on the first day of what is expected to be a three-day trial.

Prosecutors say the rapper and two other suspects “deliberately, together and in agreement” attacked 19-year-old Mustafa Jafari, who is now asking for 139,700 Swedish kroner ($14,700) in damages for his injuries, lost income and damage to his appearance, according to the Associated Press. A$AP Rocky’s lawyer has said the rapper and his companions were acting in self-defense.

A lawyer for Jafari, Magnus Stromberg, told the Associated Press that the beating started when one of A$AP Rocky’s bodyguards “grabbed [Jafari] by the neck and dragged him away.” Court documents show photos of Jafari with “cuts, bruises and blood-stained clothes.”

Slobodan Jovicic, a defense lawyer for A$AP Rocky, denied the accusation that a bottle was used in the attack on Jafari. “I’m pretty sure that when we are done, we’re going to show that no bottle has been used or not in the way that the prosecutor is claiming anyway,” Jovicic said.

Jovicic also said that he would call the rapper’s bodyguard as a witness. He said that he found Jafari’s testimony to be “pretty interesting storytelling.”

Asked whether political influence could affect the verdict, Jovicic told reporters: “Absolutely not.” Jovicic said the verdict would depend on the evidence and arguments put forth by the prosecution and defense.

The case has gained widespread attention in the U.S. after numerous prominent names, including President Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian, weighed in and asked Swedish authorities to release A$AP Rocky. Trump, especially, has been vocal about the case, saying that he was “very disappointed” in the Swedish prime minister after he refused Trump’s request to secure bail for and help free the musician.

Sweden does not have a bail system and the country’s constitution forbids any government ministers, including the prime minister, from trying to intervene in an active legal case, Swedish law experts have said.

Sweden’s prime minister emphasized the independence of the country’s judiciary in response to Trump’s comments, both before and after the rapper was charged.

The fight involving A$AP Rocky came to light through videos posted online. A video clip published by a Swedish newspaper appeared to show the rapper violently throwing a man to the ground. Another video posted on celebrity news site TMZ appears to show A$AP Rocky and others punching a man on the ground. The rapper also posted a video on his Instagram that appears to show two men trailing him and one of them hitting his bodyguard 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.”

Jovicic, the rapper’s lawyer, said during a press conference on Tuesday, that he does not have an opinion on whether the rapper should have posted a video to Instagram or not but said “it’s good for my client’s case” that footage exists beyond what was posted on TMZ.

Prosecutors have said they have “access to a greater amount of material than that which has previously been available on the internet.”

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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