A$AP Rocky testifies in Sweden, says he tried to avoid fight

American rapper A$AP Rocky testified Thursday at his assault trial in Sweden that he did everything possible to avoid a confrontation with two men he said were persistently following his entourage in Stockholm, but one of those men picked a fight with one of his bodyguards.

Rocky, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, is accused along with two other men believed to be members of his entourage of beating a 19-year-old man, Mustafa Jafari, in Stockholm on June 30. The rapper, 30, pleaded not guilty at the start of the trial Tuesday, saying he acted in self-defense.

Mr. Mayers on Thursday told Stockholm District Court that Mr. Jafari and his friend refused to leave the entourage alone despite several appeals, and claimed the two appeared to be under the influence of drugs.

“After a while, my security guard started pushing him away, begging him to leave,” said Mr. Mayers, who appeared in court wearing an all-green inmate uniform. He testified that he and his entourage just wanted to “de-escalate” the situation.

“Me and my crew told them that, ‘Listen, don’t go where we are going. Go the other way, we don’t want any trouble,’” Mr. Mayers said. But he said Mr. Jafari just wouldn’t go away.

“I assumed that these guys were under the influence of some kind of drug,” Mr. Mayers told the court.

A full-scale brawl ensued shortly afterward at a nearby side street and prosecutors allege that Mr. Mayers and the two other suspects beat and kicked Mr. Jafari while he was on the ground. They said Mr. Jafari was hit with parts of or a whole bottle.

Mr. Jafari had told police earlier that he got angry as his headphones were broken during the initial argument with the bodyguard.

“When he (bodyguard pushed me, I was both offended and surprised,” Mr. Jafari testified at court Thursday. “I followed them and said I was going to call the police … since he had broken my headphones.”

Mr. Mayers’ defense lawyer, Slobodan Jovicic, asked Mr. Jafari whether he thought the rapper’s entourage acted the way it did out due to fear of Mr. Jafari.

“Four or five people afraid of me, who’s not even half of their body size?” Mr. Jafari replied.

Despite being asked several times, it was not clear why Mr. Jafari wanted to contact Mr. Mayers’ entourage in the first place.

Mr. Jafari told the court his memory of the events that night was confused because of the blows he had received to his head during the brawl.

The trial has created a stir in U.S.-Swedish diplomatic relations after President Donald Trump weighed in to support the Grammy-nominated recording artist.

The case has also drawn the attention of American celebrities and Mr. Mayers’ fellow recording artists, including Sean “Diddy” Combs and Justin Bieber. A social media campaign has been pressing for his release {nldr}JusticeForRocky.

Mr. Trump has spoken with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven on the phone, offering to personally guarantee A$AP Rocky’s bail, but the Swedish leader said he couldn’t interfere in a legal case.

Sweden doesn’t have a bail system and Mr. Mayers has stayed behind bars despite Mr. Trump’s intervention. Mr. Trump has sent Ambassador Robert O. Brien, the U.S. special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, to Sweden to monitor the court proceedings.

The rapper’s mother, Renee Black, and several relatives were present at the courtroom Thursday.

If convicted, Mr. Mayers faces up to two years in prison.