ABC NEWS–President Donald Trump spoke out for the first time Friday about the case of rapper A$AP Rocky, who has been held in a Swedish jail for more than two weeks without charges following a street fight.
The president said the White House has been communicating with Sweden and working on the release of the hip-hop star, who will be detained at least until July 25, a judge ruled Friday.
“A$AP Rocky is a situation in Sweden. Sweden’s a great country and they’re friends of mine, the leadership. And we are going to be calling, we’ll be talking to them, we’ve already started and many, many members of the African-American community have called me — friends of mine, and said could you help?” Trump told reporters on Friday when asked about the case.
The rapper’s unusual case has become a cause celebre, attracting the attention of stars such as Kim Kardashian West, who directly appealed to the president. Trump also revealed that first lady Melania Trump personally appealed to him and asked him to help the rapper.
U.S. State Dept. officials issued a statement acknowledging the court ruling.
“We are aware that the Stockholm District Court announced it has granted until July 25 for prosecutors to complete their investigation in this case,” the statement said. “One of the most important tasks of the Department of State and U.S. embassies and consulates abroad is to provide assistance to U.S. citizens who are detained abroad.”
A$AP Rocky has been in pre-trial detention since July 2, following a June 30 street fight that broke out in Stockholm. Two other performers who were with the rapper that night, Bladimir Corniel and David Rispers, were also detained.
“We are very disappointed because this is frankly unjust,” A$AP Rocky’s Swedish attorney, Sloban Jovicic, told ABC News in a phone interview on Friday. He disputed the prosecution’s argument that the rapper could flee the country.
“This is unjust because he is incarcerated because the prosecutor is applying the rule of ‘flight right.’ There is no risk for flight risk or escape because A$AP would never jeopardize his career, brand, support from his fans, friends and celebrities all over the world,” Jovicic said.
A Change.org petition demanding the rapper’s release, which has been shared widely by Hollywood stars and artists from all corners of the hip-hop world, has garnered over 600,000 signatures and celebrities from Kardashian West to Justin Bieber have been calling for the rapper’s release.
Kardashian West, who has developed a close relationship with the Trump administration through her advocacy for criminal justice reform, confirmed a TMZ report on Thursday that she and her husband, hip-hop star Kanye West, appealed to the president through his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner to help free the rapper. Kardashian West also worked with Trump to help free Alice Johnson, a grandmother who had been serving life on drug charges.
“Thank you @realDonaldTrump , @SecPompeo, Jared Kushner & everyone involved with the efforts to Free ASAP Rocky & his two friends. Your commitment to justice reform is so appreciated,” she tweeted.
The State Department announced on Wednesday that Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Carl Risch traveled to Sweden and is in the country currently.
“[A$AP Rocky] knows that celebrities and fans have a petition of support to bring him home he would never jeopardize that. It’s frankly unjust for them to think he would not act responsibly and accordingly in this matter,” Jovicic told ABC News.
Regarding the upcoming hearing on July 25 Jovicic said, “we need to be prepared and assume the prosecutor will press charges. We are hoping for justice in a fair trial.”
A$AP Rocky — whose given name is Rakim Mayers — is part of the hip-hop collective A$AP Mob, and was in Sweden as part of the European leg of his tour.
The rapper is “suspected of aggravated assault,” according to a press release posted to the website of the Stockholm prosecutor’s office. But the rapper’s attorney told ABC News that he and his companions were acting in self-defense.
“You have to also see this from his point of view, he came to Sweden to perform for his fans and he was attacked, followed and harassed,” Jovicic said on Friday. “My client begged and pleaded with these attackers to stop and he acted in self defense. And now he is the one in jail. That’s unjust.”