Indian citizen Hilal Moorshinganakath, 41, has been living in Latvia for more than three years. He is the owner of two eateries: Laims Cafe and Lebanese Shawarma. On the evening of January 14, Hilal was in his restaurant with his friend Kasun. A man, possibly under the influence of alcohol, approached Kasun, who was smoking, to ask for a cigarette. As they left, the man slapped Kasun from behind, then attacked Hilal in what Mr. Moorshinganakath says was "an unprovoked assault".
"The attacker was in the bar next to my restaurant, I don’t know him at all, we met on the street from of my cafe, he asked my friend for a cigarette, my friend said he didn't have one, then he started shouting in Russian and Latvian and beat us brutally. His friend was trying to stop him, but he never listened," he told LSM.
Hilal recalled being beaten non-stop and unable to fight back. The attacker was eventually restrained by his companion. The victim came back into his premises and the customers called the police and an ambulance which arrived within 15 minutes. The police recorded the incident and medics took Hilal to the hospital.
"After the attack I run back to cafe and get help. There was also one Latvian couple (my customers ) they helped me, they called the police and ambulance, they also saw all this. And I have a CCTV recording," the victim told LSM.
"The gravity of this attack and its implications on the safety and harmony within Riga cannot be understated. Therefore, I am reaching out to you, hoping that your coverage on this matter will bring to light the seriousness of racial intolerance and violence that lurks within our society," said Mr. Moorshinganakath who required surgery for a broken jaw, broken nose and other facial injuries and received a facial implant after the attack. His friend Kasun flew home for medical treatment.
Hilal recalled the friend of the abuser saying that the attacker did not like the color of Hilal's skin. But it didn't end there – three hours after the attack, the attacker returned to the Hilal canteen and spoke aggressively to the staff, including threatening to assault them. Racist slurs can be heard in the video camera recording.
Police confirmed to LTV that they received a call to an assault in which a person had injured two foreign citizens. Criminal proceedings have been initiated and the police have identified the attacker, but he has not yet been arrested. The motives of the attack have not yet been clarified.
Due to the active investigation, police did not comment further on whether it was classed as a hate crime.
But statistics show that the number of hate crimes has increased in recent years, especially in 2022. According to the data of the Ministry of the Interior, seven hate crimes were registered in 2019, four in 2020, five in 2021, 36 in 2022, and 12 in 2023.
The representative of the Latvian Human Rights Center, Jekaterina Tumule, explained that a hate crime is "a crime with a message that is not addressed directly to the specific victim, but also to the whole group, for example, all foreigners, Indians or people with a darker skin color, that they are not welcome in this society".
The State Police explained that the investigation of hate crimes is set as a priority.
The Human Rights Center pointed out that Latvian society still needs to grow a lot in the area of tolerance, including the police work, because hate crimes are not always properly classified.
"We see, also from the decisions that are made in these cases, that there is a general lack of understanding of what a hate crime is and why it is so important to really record this motive," said Tumule.
Several such cases remain outside the statistics because the victims do not necessarily trust the police, the Human Rights Center stated.