Last week in Tukums, Latvia, a man was set on fire by his neighbour, with his housemate sustaining burns as he tried to extinguish the flames. The attacker was reportedly spewing homophobic abuse moments prior to the devastating incident, and it was not the first time he had harassed the pair. Taking to Twitter to comment on the suspected homophobic attack, Latvian President Egils Levits condemned the vile crime.
In a tweet published on April 24, President Levits said that, “If it is confirmed that the Tukums offender’s motivation was hate toward a group of society, it exacerbates their guilt.” He also insisted that “there is no place for hate in Latvia.”
“A value of the Latvian society is tolerance, and this expression of hate is a crime towards the society as well,” the President continued.
Naidam Latvijā nav vietas. Ja apstiprināsies, ka Tukuma noziedznieka motivācija ir bijusi naids pret kādu sabiedrības daļu, tad tas pastiprina viņa vainu. Latvijas sabiedrības vērtība ir iecietība, un šāda naida izpausme vienlaikus ir noziegums pret sabiedrību.
— Egils Levits (@valstsgriba) April 24, 2021
The victims regularly faced threats from the assailant in their apartment complex, none of which were taken seriously when reported to authorities. On this occasion, the threats materialised, and one of the men was doused in flammable liquid before being set alight. He was brought to the Burns Centre in Riga with severe wounds, and his companion also suffered injuries as a result of trying to put out the fire.
In a statement to local newspaper Tukums Independent News, the second victim said that “We reported these threats to both the police and the neighbour’s workplace, but there was no reaction… We had to wait for someone to be mutilated or killed.”
The assault has sparked outrage among queer advocates, with Mozaika, the country’s only LGBTQ+ organisation, calling for State Police to intervene. They added that the homophobic attack and similar incidents “are a clear result of the hatred-based policies” used by some Latvian politicians and organisations.
At present, Latvia does not grant marriage equality, civil partnerships, adoption rights, or legal protections for same-sex couples. Furthermore, following a vote earlier this year, their constitution was also changed to define the family as a “union of a male and female person”. It continues to be a difficult place to live for queer people, and the lack of action from the Latvian authorities is believed to be encouraging hate crimes like this one.
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