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What We Know as ASAP Rocky’s Trial Begins

As the rapper ASAP Rocky’s trial on an assault charge started on Tuesday in Stockholm, the case has already billowed into a scandal of international proportions: Accusations of racism and human rights abuses have been leveled against Sweden’s justice system, and President Trump has taken to Twitter to criticize Sweden’s prime minister.

It has been nearly a month since he was accused of assaulting a man on June 30 while on tour in the Swedish capital. If he is found guilty, his punishment could include a fine or prison.

ASAP Rocky, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, is a New York rapper, actor and fashion model who ascended from YouTube and Tumblr in the early 2010s as the face of the Harlem-based creative collective known as the ASAP Mob.

He has released three full-length albums via RCA Records since 2013, including “Testing,” which featured Frank Ocean and FKA Twigs and debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard chart last year. Rocky has also collaborated with Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Lana del Rey and Tyler, the Creator, and is known for singles like “Peso” and “Problems.”

Beyond music, the rapper has worked with the designers Raf Simons and Calvin Klein, released clothing for Guess and participated in a performance installation called “Lab Rat” at Sotheby’s.

(And ASAP, often styled as A$AP, is pronounced as one word, not as individual letters.)

Rocky and two others were detained on July 5 and accused of assaulting a man, Mustafa Jafari. Rocky is claiming self-defense. In two videos on his Instagram account, he and members of his entourage repeatedly tell two men — one of whom later appears to throw his headphones at Rocky’s bodyguard — to stop following them.

“We don’t want to fight y’all,” Rocky says to one. “We’re not trying to go to jail.”

President Trump referred to the videos in a tweet on July 25 targeting the Swedish prime minister, Stefan Lofven.

But in other videos filmed by bystanders, Rocky appears to throw one of the men to the ground. The clips also seem to show Rocky and two of the men in his group standing over the man on the ground, kicking and punching him. In police interviews, Rocky said he struck Mr. Jafari because he feared he and his entourage were about to be attacked.

Since his arrest, the rapper has missed performances in London, Moscow, Barcelona, Milan and elsewhere.

A Change.org petition supporting Rocky’s release says he is being held under “horrific” and “inhumane” conditions, including restricted access to food and “24/7 solitary confinement.”

Karin Olofsdotter, Sweden’s ambassador to the United States, disputed this in a phone interview with The New York Times on July 18, saying that Rocky was permitted to see other inmates for up to three hours each day, and that having his own space was “a good thing” rather having to share a cell.

There were “misunderstandings,” she said, adding that Sweden has a “fair and just legal system.” Foreigners accused of crimes are normally kept in detention as investigations take place, she said, because of the flight risk. Sweden does not have a system of bail.

Rocky’s lawyer at that time, Henrik Olsson Lilja said in an interview with Dagens Nyheter, a Swedish daily, that the rapper was being treated fairly. (Rocky replaced his legal team two days later.)

At the urging of celebrities, including Kanye West, President Trump spoke with Mr. Lofven by phone about the case on July 20. The Swedish government said that Mr. Lofven had told the president that Rocky would not receive special treatment.

Mr. Lofven’s press secretary said that the call, which lasted 20 minutes, was “friendly and respectful.” That cordial tone, at least on President Trump’s end, seemed to take a turn several days later, with the president saying that “Sweden should focus on its real crime problem!”

Carl Bildt, Sweden’s former prime minister, wrote in The Washington Post that the kind of executive intervention the president seemed to be looking for would not be possible with the limitations of the office.

“A Swedish prime minister who tries to order a court to release a suspect or dismiss a case is first going to fail and then, with high probability, will be kicked out of office,” Mr. Bildt wrote.

“The independence of the judiciary is rightly seen as a hallmark of a truly free society,” he added. “In this we are no different from the United States.”

Beyond the president and Mr. West, other celebrities and politicians have been outspoken about Rocky’s arrest. Several members of Congress affirmed their support of Rocky’s release from jail in a news conference on July 17 that included Representatives Adriano Espaillat and Hakeem Jeffries of New York; Representative André Carson of Indiana; and Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas.

Rocky remains in custody in Sweden as the trial occurs. The hearing is scheduled to last three days, and a decision is expected soon afterward.

Before the trial, a spokeswoman for the Swedish Prosecution Authority said that, if convicted, Rocky could be fined based on his daily earnings and could face a maximum of two years in prison.

Leif Silbersky, a Swedish legal expert, told the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet last week that any punishment handed down by the court would depend on whether a broken bottle found at the scene was used in the attack. If it was, Rocky could serve jail time, he said.

Rocky’s current lawyer, Slobodan Jovicic, told The Times on Thursday that he had “good hope that we will get a result, and get him home soon.”

Alex Marshall and Joe Coscarelli contributed reporting.

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