Sweden Resists Trump’s Pressure to Free American Rap Artist

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An extraordinary diplomatic dispute between the United States and Sweden has escalated with President Donald Trump alleging unfair treatment for a jailed American rap musician.

Sweden is rejecting demands from Trump that it free Rakim Mayers, known as A$AP Rocky, who along with two other men, has been formally charged with assault after a street fight that was captured on video.

Sweden’s prime minister, Stefan Löfven, has “explained and emphasized the complete independence of the Swedish judicial system, prosecutors and courts,” says Karin Olofsdotter, the Swedish ambassador to the United States. “In Sweden, everyone is equal before the law. The government is not allowed, and will not attempt, to influence legal proceedings.”

The White House on Friday did not respond to a VOA query for comment on the Swedish reaction after Trump demanded a day earlier that the Swedes free the artist.

“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!”

Trump also on Twitter accused the Swedish prime minister of “being unable to act,” adding he “has let down “our African American community in the United States.”

Prosecutor Daniel Suneson says he’s pressing charges against the three suspects for assault, “because in my judgment what has happened amounts to a crime, despite the objections about self-defense and provocation.”  

FILE - Members of the entourage of US rapper Rakim Mayers, known by his stage name Asap Rocky, leave a courtroom after a hearing in his trial over a street brawl on July 5, 2019 in Stockholm.
FILE – Members of the entourage of US rapper Rakim Mayers, known by his stage name Asap Rocky, leave a courtroom after a hearing in his trial over a street brawl on July 5, 2019 in Stockholm.

The rapper has been in custody since his arrest because he is considered a flight risk.

On his Instagram account, however, Mayer alleges the attack was self-defense in response to a man and a second person, who were harassing women and hitting members of his staff.

In video obtained by American celebrity news website TMZ, Mayers and two other men can be seen punching and kicking the victim on the ground.

Celebrity and criminal justice activist Kim Kardashian West has thanked Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the president’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, for their attention to the case.

Trump’s intervention is criticized by some, though, who note the reputation of Sweden’s judiciary (ranking number 4 out of 126 countries World Justice Project’s 2019 Rule of Law Index), compared to other countries. Detractors also point out the U.S. president has been virtually silent about other high-profile cases..

The opinion page editor of The Washington Post, Karen Attiah, calls it “absolutely absurd” Trump has reacted more angrily to Sweden’s prime minister over the rapper’s case than he did to Saudi Arabia over the killing of the newspaper’s writer, Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and U.S. resident.

Others allege a racial motive by the Swedes.

“I don’t want to call the race card but that’s what it’s looking like. If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck,” said Renee Black, Mayers’ mother.

Fellow rapper G-Eazy also contends Mayers’ treatment stems from racism, referencing his own arrest in the country a year earlier.

“The difference between me and Rocky’s treatment and process in Sweden brings to mind two concepts that disgustingly go hand in hand: white privilege and systemic racism. Let’s call it what it is. He should not be behind bars right now. My heart goes out to my brother,” wrote G-Eazy on Instagram.

G-Eazy, whose real name is Gerald Gillum, was arrested in Sweden for violence against a public servant, resisting arrest and possession of narcotics. The rapper pleaded guilty and was fined $8,400.

Mayers is due in court Tuesday, and the trial is expected to last three days. He faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

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