Man allegedly set on fire in suspected homophobic hate crime

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An incident in the town of Tukums in which it is claimed a man was set on fire as part of a homophobic hate crime is being investigated by police.

The LETA newswire and local media reported that two people were injured in a fire in a five-storey apartment building in Tukums. Initially this was reported by the State Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD) as a burning pile of clothes, but one of the alleged victims said that what actually happened was a hate crime in which a man expressing homophobic sentiments and living in the same apartment block had made repeated threats against the two victims, which were reported to police at the time.

According to the victim's account on the night of April 22, one of the men was attacked by being drenched in flammable liquid and set on fire. The second man received burns while trying to put out the flames. The most severely injured man was taken to the Burns Center in Riga with serious injuries.

"We reported these threats to both the police and the neighbor's workplace, but there was no reaction… We had to wait for someone to be mutilated or killed," the second victim told the local newspaper Tukums Inependent News.

Janeks Bahs, the head of the Tukums district police department, confirmed that "two people have been injured in the fire", and criminal proceedings have been initiated and an investigation is underway to find out the circumstances of the incident.

Asked about the previously expressed threats against the victims, Bahs confirmed that they had been reported to the police, but after checking the information, a decision was made not to launch criminal proceedings.

LGBT association Mozaika condemned the suspected homophobic attack and said it required an immediate response from officials. Such attacks are "a clear result of the hatred-based policies of some politicians and organizations" it said, later appealing for members of the public to donate blood to help the seriously injured victim.

President of Latvia Egils Levits spoke out on Twitter Saturday that "there is no place for hate in Latvia. If it is confirmed that the Tukums offender's motivation was hate toward a group of society, it exacerbates their guilt. A value of the Latvian society is tolerance, and this expression of hate is a crime towards the society as well."




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