Latvia gets homophobic assault case to trial for first time ever

The Latgale District Court is continuing trial on a case where a young man was beaten up last year in Daugavpils. The prosecution has now established that the crime was motivated by homophobia, and this is the first such trial in Latvia that has gone this far, Latvian Radio's Latgale studio reported on April 23.

A year ago, on May 4, 2023, in Daugavpils, a young man was brutally beaten up. The victim is Līvajs Amareins. He did not know the perpetrator. Līvajs said at the time that the reason for the attack was Līvajs' belonging to the LGBT+ community.

At first, the stranger had asked Līvajs to lend his phone to make a call, noticed that the lockscreen had a picture of a man on it, and then attacked Līvajs. Later that night, the perpetrator beat up another person, apparently for the same reasons.

The suspect turned out to be the 27-year-old Eļdars Zaripovs. In the summer, the police announced that the case would be closed, followed by an uproar on social media and the public space.

The prosecution reopened the case, and in autumn, it got to court. 

As of now, it has been proven that the motive of the attacks was homophobia, said prosecutor Igors Kravcevičs: "The criminal proceedings proved that the suspect acted on homophobic motives."

Eļdars Zaripovs is currently accused of hooliganism and inflicting bodily harm, with aggravating circumstances of a hate crime. The Latvian Human Rights Center's lawyer Jekaterina Tumule said that this circumstance is important:

"This is the first homophobic crime that has got to court and trial. Several criminal cases have been initiated so far, which ended in nothing [..] or were requalified as administrative cases, like petty hooliganism. But this is the first case where the motive of hate and homophobia has been taken as the motive of a crime."


 The fact that crimes based on hatred take place in Latvia was also recognized by Kaspars Zālītis, Member of the board of the public organization Mozaīka: "It must be said that hate-based attacks and crimes are almost as latent as domestic violence, for example, because they are not talked about, very often victims are ashamed to report them, and the fact should also be taken into account that if a person is assaulted because of their sexual orientation, they should approach the police and they will have to come out of the closet."

Zālītis does not regard the situation in Latvia as critical in this regard, but at the same time, he called it critical that people do not turn for help and the public does not learn about such or similar attacks.

"From the information we have about the last few years, there are dozens of cases where people have been assaulted, but in almost no case except Līvajs and another case, have they approached the police," Zālītis said.

Līvajs is currently living and undergoing treatment in the Netherlands, but hopes to return to Latvia in the future and change the situation in the country: "I believe everyone should talk about such crimes, tell the public that LGBT people are normal."

The next court hearing on the crime is expected in Latgale District Court on June 4. Līvajs claims EUR 10,000 as moral compensation and the other victim – EUR 5,000.

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