Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo flew the rainbow LGBTQ Pride flag outside his office on Tuesday in response to the fatal stabbing of a gay man in a park in Beveren, a city just outside of Antwerp.
“In our country, there is no place for hatred. Love wins,” De Croo said in a tweet showing the rainbow flag.
The body of the victim, identified as 42-year-old David Polfliet, of Sint-Niklaas, was found on Saturday in a local park. Police say they believe he was lured to the park by someone he met on a dating app, according to De Standaard.
The following day, a 17-year-old from Antwerp, presented himself to police, who arrested and charged him with murder. Subsequently, a 17-year-old from Verrebroek, and a 16-year-old from Kieldrecht, turned themselves into police. The motive for the crime is still being investigated.
Prosecutors say Polfliet was violently stabbed while in the park, but it is not clear whether the motive for the murder was prompted by deep-seated bias against gay men, or whether Polfliet was a victim of opportunity and the initial motive was robbery.
If anti-gay bias is found to have played a role, the suspects — who would normally be charged as juveniles — could face more serious charges.
The crime has already drawn comparisons to the 2012 killing of Ihsane Jarfi, a gay man who was last seen leaving a gay bar in the town of Liège with four men. His naked body was found in a field two weeks later. He had been beaten to death. Three of his attackers were sentenced to life in prison, with the fourth sentenced to 30 years.
Several Belgian politicians condemned the murder, with De Croo saying he was “disgusted” by the crime.
“I am deeply shocked by the extreme homophobia in Beveren. This is really awful. My deepest condolences to the family and friends of the victim,” De Croo tweeted. “Justice must now do its job. But let one thing be clear: we will never accept this violence in our country.”
Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden also denounced the killing.
“In an adult society there is no place for homophobic violence,” she tweeted. “The events in #beveren are completely unacceptable. I sympathize with the family and friends of the victim.”
Unia, the Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism, said it was “baffled” by the gruesome crime and was waiting for more information about the investigation.
“Unia is stunned by the tragic events at #Beveren,” the group tweeted. “We will take the necessary steps if the homophobic nature of the facts [of the case] is confirmed.”
Wim Raes, the chairman of the Sint-Niklaas-based LGBTQ group Tiszo, said the organization was shocked to hear or Polfliet’s death.
“[David] was someone who was always ready to help everyone,” Raes told Het Laatste Nieuws. But he also warned that the murder underscores the dangers of meeting people on dating apps.
“I have been warning of its dangers for years, because accounts are often fake,” Raes said. “It is not the first time that gays have been victims of violence.”
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