By Johan Ahlander and Philip O'Connor
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - U.S. rapper A$AP Rocky told a Swedish court on Thursday he had tried to avoid the fight in downtown Stockholm that landed him and two of his entourage in custody and facing a charge of assault.
The case has drawn huge media attention, with celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Rod Stewart defending the 30-year-old performer, producer and model, and U.S. President Donald Trump asking Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven to help free him.
Rocky, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, was detained following a brawl outside a hamburger restaurant in Stockholm on June 30. He and two of his entourage were charged with assault causing actual bodily harm.
All three, who have been in police custody since July 3, pleaded not guilty at the start of the trial on Tuesday with Mayers' lawyer saying the rapper acted in self defense.
The prosecution authority said it had received a request from the U.S. Embassy that the trio be allowed to stay under guard in a hotel. It could not comply as such a decision was up to the court, a spokeswoman said.
Giving testimony for the first time, Mayers said he had been scared after his group was followed by the plaintiff, a 19-year-old man, and his friend.
"We wanted to defuse the situation and get away from these guys," Mayers told the court.
When the two men attacked Mayers' bodyguard, he reacted, grabbing 19-year-old Mustafa Jafari and throwing him to the ground.
"At this point I intervened. I threw him to the ground, and stepped on his arm, I kicked his arm and I punched or shoved him," Mayers said.
He told the court he had been the victim of a number of attacks in recent years and that the situation in Stockholm had made him paranoid.
"We're in a foreign country, we're approached by two strangers with aggressive behavior: ten months ago when I was with my cousin ... I was stabbed in my face by strangers," he told the court.
He said that his home had been robbed twice at gunpoint in the last two years and that he and his security guard had also been attacked in an elevator in Oakland in the United States by drug addicts.
"I don't know what to expect when being attacked by strangers, that's why I have security. At that moment I wasn't thinking," he said.
KICKED AND PUNCHED
On Tuesday, Jafari told the court he had been pushed and grabbed by the neck by Mayers' bodyguard outside the restaurant and followed the rapper's group to get back a pair of headphones.
He said he was then hit on the head with a bottle - which the defense rejects - and kicked and punched by the three men while he was on the ground.
Jafari continued his testimony on Thursday morning.
Mayers, best known for his song "Praise the Lord", was in Stockholm for a concert. He has canceled several shows across Europe due to his detention.
The trial is scheduled to end on Friday. The court will then announce a date for the verdict and say whether Mayers must remain in custody until that time.
(Reporting by Johan Ahlander and Philip O'Connor; writing by Johan Ahlander, Anna Ringstrom and Simon Johnson, Editing by Janet Lawrence and Jon Boyle)