The State Department is expressing concern over the arrest and detention of a US rapper 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 on July 2 after going voluntarily to the police in Stockholm to ask about a street fight he was involved in.
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A spokesman for the State Department said the department is aware of the case and that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been informed. The department's top officials, including Robert O & # 39; Brien, the special presidential envoy for hostage matters, are also closely monitoring the situation and working to make sure the rapper is treated fairly.
"Certainly there are some facts about the arrest and detention that raise concerns," the spokesman said. "We hope that all governments, including Sweden, will treat American citizens fairly and with respect. … We hope to see ASAP Rocky and his colleagues on tour again and meet friends and family soon. "
By Friday, Swedish prosecutors must decide whether to indict Rocky, who is in solitary confinement, or ask a court to allow them to hold him for longer.
Rocky and his entourage, who were in Stockholm for the Smash music festival, were walking around the city "thinking about their own affairs" on June 30 when they were verbally harassed by two men who had started following them, according to a nearby person. the rapper
Finally, after one of them took "a fighting stance and then threw a punch" at Rocky's bodyguard and hit him, the two sides soon began to fight.
"Obviously, they were 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 approaching Rocky and his colleagues became physicists first. The person also said that Rocky is "anxious 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 has published one. video on Instagram with his side of the story, which showed his bodyguard telling the men to stop following them.
"So, some drug addicts are not my fans, we do not know these guys and we did not want problems, they followed us for 4 blocks and they were hitting the girls that passed, give me a break," he wrote. Other video Rocky posted shows one of the men fighting with his bodyguard and throwing headphones at him.
Alan Jackson, a lawyer for Rocky, told POLITICO: "President Trump has made bringing the unjust to Americans one of the top priorities of his administration. The interest of the State Department 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 US citizens detained around the world." Millions of Rocky fans around the world rely on the State Department to take Rocky to home ".
Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on consular relations requires signatory countries to immediately notify consular officials when arresting a foreign citizen, but that did not happen for hours in the case of Rocky, according to the person close to Rocky.
Initially, a State Department official was also denied access to Rocky, but when he was granted access, the official could not have a private conversation with the rapper because two Swedish security guards were within earshot.
The Swedish Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the case.
Rocky was initially held for four days in a facility that had "relatively stinky conditions" with a "terrible stench" that was "dirty, disgusting and disgusting," according to the person close to the rapper. He was later transferred to a detention center where conditions are "noticeably better".
Celebrities, including Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes, posted posts on social media in support of Rocky, and more than 580,000 people signed a "#JusticeForRocky" petition on Change.org to urge Sweden to release him.
Representative Adriano Espaillat (DN.Y.), whose district includes Harlem, where Rocky is from, said he "saw the tape of what happened, and clearly, was provoked, harassed, followed, and approached, and I think he acted on self-defense. "Espaillat also expressed concern about the conditions of the Rocky jail and saying Complex.com says he will "fight until they bring him back home." The legislator sent letters about the case to the State Department, to the United States Embassy in Sweden and to the Swedish ambassador to the United States, Karin Olofsdotter.