Sweden: Why Trump cares about a rapper’s arrest
Despite what U.S. President Donald Trump may think, A$AP Rocky will get a fair trial in Sweden, said Jesper Sandström in Svenska Dagbladet. The 30-year-old American rapper and record producer was arrested and jailed last month after a street fight in Stockholm, where Rocky—real name Rakim Mayers—was on tour. Cellphone footage shows Rocky and two other performers brutally beating and kicking a 19-year-old Afghan immigrant, Mustafa Jafari. It’s true that other video clips show Jafari and another man following and heckling Rocky and his companions before the dustup; in one video, Rocky says he doesn’t want to fight them. The rapper’s attorneys argue he “had the right to defend himself from obvious harassment,” but the beating video shows a level of “violence going beyond self-defense.” His trial began this week, and a judge will now decide whether Rocky is guilty of assault, a crime that carries a maximum two-year sentence. Trump, though, thinks he should render the verdict in this case. At the request of reality star Kim Kardashian West and her husband, rapper Kanye West, the president phoned Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to ask that Rocky be released. Löfven told him that Rocky won’t get any special treatment. That infuriated Trump, who tweeted that Sweden must “treat Americans fairly!”
Trump is, as usual, acting out of self-interest, said Per Andersson in SVT Nyheter. He won only 8 percent of the African-American vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and since then has been accused of repeated instances of “open racism” by fellow politicians. By feigning outrage over a well-connected rapper, Trump hopes to “show black voters that he can be their president too.” As a bonus, his target is Sweden, a country he loves to pretend is overrun by violent Muslim immigrants. The Americans “claim that racism is behind” Rocky’s four weeks in jail, said Adam Westin in Aftonbladet. They note that Swedish authorities let a white American rapper, G-Eazy, pay a small fine last year for assault and drug possession following a nightclub brawl. But the victim in the Rocky assault suffered far worse injuries, including a broken rib and lacerations from a broken glass bottle.
The U.S. president has promised to “personally vouch” for Rocky’s bail if he is released, said Robert Sundberg in Sydöstran. Someone should tell him that we don’t have bail in this “egalitarian” country, because we don’t believe the wealthy should walk free until trial while the poor remain stuck behind bars. That doesn’t mean the Swedish justice system “is perfect,” said Dagens Nyheter in an editorial. For starters, we jail far too many people awaiting trial: About 30 percent of inmates here haven’t been convicted of anything. We also put severe restrictions on pretrial detainees. Many are refused access to the internet or newspapers, are denied visitors, or are kept in solitary, often for no good reason. One man suspected of tax evasion was kept isolated for 16 months. Among such detainees, “suicide attempts occur every week.” Such treatment is “shameful” in a country that prides itself on rule of law. The A$AP Rocky case should spur us to reform this unfair system. ■