The State Department is raising concerns about the arrest and detention of rapper A$AP Rocky in Sweden and is urging the Swedish government to treat him fairly, according to a statement shared exclusively with POLITICO.
ASAP Rocky, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, was arrested July 2 after voluntarily going to the police in Stockholm for questioning about a street fight he was involved in.
A State Department spokesperson said that the department is aware of the case and that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been briefed. Top officials at the department, including Robert O’Brien, the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, are also closely monitoring the situation and working to make sure the rapper is treated fairly.
“There are certainly some facts about the arrest and detention that raise concerns,” the spokesperson said. “We expect all governments, including Sweden, to treat American citizens fairly and with respect. … We hope to see ASAP Rocky and his colleagues back on tour and reunited with friends and family soon.”
Swedish prosecutors must decide by Friday whether to charge Rocky, who is being held in solitary confinement, or ask a court to let them hold him longer.
Rocky and his entourage, who were in Stockholm for the Smash music festival, were walking around the city “minding their own business” on June 30 when they were verbally harassed by two men who had started following them, according to a person close to the rapper.
Eventually, after one of them took “a fighting stance and then threw a punch” at Rocky’s bodyguard and hit him, the two sides soon started fighting.
“They were obviously spoiling for a fight,” said the person close to Rocky. The person added that the rapper and his crew “had no choice but to defend themselves” and that the two men who had been accosting Rocky and his colleagues got physical first. The person also said Rocky is “eager to defend himself and his name” in court if charges are filed.
A TMZ video shows Rocky throwing across the street one of the men who had been following him and his entourage. The video also shows some members of Rocky’s group kicking and hitting the person.
Rocky posted a video on Instagram with his side of the story, which showed his bodyguard telling the men to quit following them.
“So a few drug addicts are not my fans, we dont know these guys and we didnt want trouble, they followed us for 4 blocks, and they were slapping girls butts who passed, give me a break,” he wrote. Another video Rocky posted shows one of the men fighting with his bodyguard and throwing his headphones at him.
Alan Jackson, a lawyer for Rocky, told POLITICO: “President Trump has made bringing home unjustly held Americans a top priority for his administration. The State Department’s interest in the case gives us great hope for Rocky’s situation.
“Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador O’Brien have been relentless in their diplomatic efforts on behalf of American citizens being held all over the world. Rocky’s millions of fans worldwide are putting their trust in the State Department to get Rocky home.”
Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations requires signatory countries to immediately notify consular officials upon arresting a foreign citizen, but that didn’t happen for hours in Rocky’s case, according to the person close to Rocky.
A State Department official was also initially denied access to Rocky but upon being granted access, the official couldn’t have a private conversation with the rapper because two Swedish security guards were within earshot.
The Swedish Embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the case.
Rocky was initially held for four days in a facility that had “relatively fetid conditions” with a “terrible stench” that was “dirty, filthy and disgusting,” according to the person close to the rapper. He was later moved to a detention facility where the conditions are “markedly better.”
Celebrities, including Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes, sent out social media posts in support of Rocky, and more than 580,000 people have signed a “#JusticeForRocky” petition on Change.org to urge Sweden to release him.
Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), whose district includes Harlem, where Rocky is from, said he’d “seen the tape of what occurred, and clearly, he was provoked, and harassed, and followed, and accosted, and I think he acted in self-defense.” Espaillat also raised concerns about the conditions of Rocky’s jail and told Complex that he would “fight until he’s brought back home.” The lawmaker has sent letters on the case to the State Department, the U.S. Embassy in Sweden and the Swedish ambassador to the U.S., Karin Olofsdotter. Source: Politico