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A$AP Rocky to testify in Swedish court as Trump's hostage negotiator watches

Posted at 6:05 AM, Aug 01, 2019

American rapper A$AP Rocky was brought to court in handcuffs for the second day of his assault trial in Sweden on Thursday, in a case being closely watched by Donald Trump and monitored from the courtroom by the President's special envoy for hostage affairs.

A$AP Rocky, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, pleaded not guilty to assault charges on Tuesday after being detained following a street brawl in the Swedish capital Stockholm on June 30.

The artist, whose case has fueled a diplomatic quarrel after repeated interventions from Trump's administration, is expected to address the court with his testimony on Thursday once an interrogation of the alleged victim has concluded.

A$AP Rocky's lawyer, Slobodan Jovicic, began proceedings by grilling the alleged victim about why he started talking to the rapper's bodyguard.

"To me they were just normal people. I didn't recognize them," the alleged victim said, adding that he approached the bodyguard to ask for help finding his friend.

The court was also shown surveillance footage of the brawl, in which the rapper and his two co-defendants, Bladimir Corniel and David Rispers, assert they were acting in self defense.

Surveillance footage analyzed

The second day of the trial began with continued interrogation of the alleged victim, who says A$AP Rocky and his entourage assaulted him by kicking and beating him with a glass bottle or part of one while he lay on the ground.

The alleged victim told the rapper's lawyer Jovicic he was surprised by the behavior of A$AP Rocky and his entourage, whom he claimed were pushing him away as he searched for his friend.

But Jovicic pressed the alleged victim on why he approached the group in the first place.

"Out of all the people in this square, you feel it appropriate to ask these people, whose language you don't even understand?," he asked. The alleged victim spoke in Persian and his answers were translated in the courtroom.

Jovicic also played a clip from a cell phone where it appears the victim was trying to strike the rapper's bodyguard with his fist and rings, followed by an attempt to hit him with headphones.

The alleged victim was also probed by Corniel's lawyer, Martin Persson, on whether a bottle was used in the attack, as previously claimed during Tuesday's hearing.

After viewing stills from a video of the incident, Persson referred to the alleged attackers and told the victim: "So none of the eight hands in these photos actually holds a bottle."

"I asked if they had the bottles from the beginning when they approached you and you said yes. Why are you unsure of this now?," the lawyer added.

The alleged victim replied: "My wounds have not come from nowhere. Would they have come from the air? There are witnesses that can attest to this."

The images only show "a short sequence of what happened. I was trying to get away," he added.

In photos of the crime scene displayed to the court on Tuesday, a broken glass bottle was visible on the street where the brawl took place and a fragment of what appeared to be the same bottle could be seen stuck in A$AP Rocky's sweater.

Footage of the altercation posted by TMZ and clips shared by A$AP Rocky himself, which have been at the heart of the investigation, were also played in court on Tuesday.

Under Swedish law, A$AP Rocky could face a maximum penalty of two years in prison. However, according to Swedish media, the prosecutors have indicated they do not expect to ask for the maximum penalty.

Presidential presence in courtroom

Presidential Hostage Affairs Envoy Robert C. O'Brien greeted A$AP Rocky's mother with a handshake as proceedings began.

O'Brien's presence in the courtroom, for the second day of the trial, marks the latest move from the Oval Office in a trial that is being closely watched by Trump and has caused a diplomatic quarrel between the President and his Swedish counterparts.

It comes after O'Brien told CNN on Tuesday that Trump wants the rapper and his two co-defendants, Corniel and Rispers, to "come home as soon as possible."

Trump has repeatedly pressed Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to free A$AP Rocky on Twitter, but his efforts have been rebuffed by the country's government.

A$AP Rocky is expected to testify later on Thursday. Jovicic maintains his client did not commit any crime. The rapper asserts that he was acting in self-defense when he threw the victim to the ground and stepped on his arm.

The trial, at a packed Stockholm District Court, has attracted the world's media, and judge Per Lennerbrant told the courtroom on Thursday he wanted its focus to remain on the incident in question.

"This case is about an alleged assault that happened here in Stockholm. Nothing else. I want to say this to everyone, ahead of today's questioning," he said at the start of proceedings.

The trial is set to conclude on Friday, when closing arguments will be made, but Lennerbrant suggested on Thursday that proceedings are running behind schedule and a further day may be needed.