American rapper ASAP Rocky has told a court in Sweden that he did everything possible to avoid conflict with two men he says persistently followed the artist's entourage in Stockholm, and that one of the men picked a fight with one of his bodyguards.
Rakim Mayers, the rapper's real name, is accused along with two other men believed to be members of his entourage of beating a 19-year-old man, Mustafa Jafari, in central Stockholm on the evening of June 30.
Mayers told Stockholm District Court that Jafari and his friend refused to leave the entourage alone despite several appeals, and claimed they appeared to be under the influence of drugs.
He said the situation started to get tense after Jafari got into an argument with one of Mayers' bodyguards near a fast-food restaurant where the rapper's entourage had stopped to download an app to their phones to use electric scooters, which are widely available on the streets of Stockholm.
"After a while, my security guard started pushing him (victim) away, begging him to leave, go from there," said Mayers.
He gave evidence 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," Mayers said.
But he said Jafari was persistent and just would not go away.
"I assumed that these guys were under the influence of some kind of drug," Mayers told the court on Thursday.
A full-scale brawl ensued a bit later at a nearby side street and prosecutors allege that Mayers and the two other suspects beat and kicked Jafari while he was on the ground, and that Jafari was hit with parts of or a whole bottle.
The rapper, 30, pleaded not guilty at the start of the trial on Tuesday, saying he acted in self-defence.
Swedish prosecutors told the court on Tuesday Jafari and a friend got into an argument with Mayers and one of his bodyguards near a fast-food restaurant where the rapper's entourage had eaten.
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," Jafari said in court on Thursday.
"I followed them and said I was going to call the police ... since he had broken my headphones."
Mayers' defence lawyer, Slobodan Jovicic, asked Jafari whether he thought the rapper's entourage acted the way it did due to fear of Jafari.
"Four or five people afraid of me, who's not even half of their body size?" Jafari replied.
Despite being asked several times, it was not clear why Jafari wanted to contact Mayers' entourage in the first place.
The trial has created a stir in US-Swedish diplomatic relations after US President Donald Trump weighed in on the case in support of the Grammy-nominated recording artist.
Besides Mayers, Thursday's court session is reserved for testimony from the alleged victim, his friend, witnesses and Mayers' bodyguard.
Mayers' mother, Renee Black, and several of his relatives were present at the courtroom.
Trump has sent Robert O. Brien, the US special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, to Sweden to monitor the court proceedings.
If convicted, Mayers faces up to two years in prison
Australian Associated Press