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A gay man in Latvia has reportedly suffered burns to most of his body after a neighbor doused him in flammable liquid and set him on fire.
The man, identified only as Normunds, was attacked in his apartment block in the town of Tukums, about an hour’s drive from Latvian capital Riga.
According to local reports, Normunds was attacked by a neighbor after an argument, with the unidentified man covering him in a flammable liquid and setting him alight.
Normunds’ roommate, Artis, also suffered burns after trying to extinguish the flames. Normunds was later transferred to a specialist burns unit in Riga for treatment.
The neighbor who attacked the men had allegedly threatened and harassed them previously, according to reports.
Artist told Tukums Independent News that he “woke up from a friend’s screams and cries for help at 4:00 in the morning. When I opened the door, he was already on fire!”
He also criticized both Tukums and emergency services for initially reporting the attack as clothes being burned.
“He has 85 percent burns, and doctors are fighting for a friend’s life!” he wrote. “But you write that a pile of rags has burned!”
Artis said that police had also ignored previous homophobic incidents, saying the men had “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.”
Tukums District Police Department later confirmed that “two people have been injured in the fire” and they were investigating the incident.
Latvian President Egils Levits responded to the attack on Twitter, writing that there was “no place for hatred in Latvia.”
“If it is confirmed that the motivation of the Tukums criminal has been hatred towards a part of the society, then it increases his guilt,” Levtis said. “The value of Latvian society is tolerance, and such an expression of hatred is at the same time a crime against society.”
Latvian LGBTQ organization Mozaika condemned the attack in a series of tweets, calling it “brutal, incomprehensible” and a “possible hate crime.”
Mozaika demanded an “immediate and urgent response” from police and a “proper investigation.”
“The current homophobic attacks and incidents are a clear result of the hatred-based policies of some politicians and organizations,” Mozaika added.
Mozaika referenced a vote, taken earlier this year by the Latvian parliament, to approve an amendment to the country’s constitution defining marriage as “a union between a man and a woman” and a family as “a mother (woman) and father (man).”
The former Soviet Bloc nation has limited rights for LGBTQ people, including employment nondiscrimination laws, the right to legally change gender, and open military service, it has no other hate speech or nondiscrimination laws, bans joint adoption for same-sex couples, and only recognizes same-sex marriages performed outside the country — a requirement as a member of the European Union.
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