Crime & Justice

Doubts cast on homophobic motives behind mysterious Latvia death

By Juris Kaža

Riga, May 18 (EFE).- What started as a suspected violent hate crime against an allegedly gay man in a Latvian town has turned into a more complicated affair as Latvian police and LGBT activists question the real motive behind the incident.

Normunds Kindzulis, a physician’s assistant working for Latvia’s national ambulance service, died several days after being severely burned early April 23 in the stairwell and hallway of his apartment house in Tukums, Latvia.

His burning clothes were extinguished by his apartment roommate, who was woken by Kindzulis’ screams.

Initial reports of the crime claimed that Kindzulis had been threatened, attacked and told “to get out of town” before the incident, but that local police had not taken the threats seriously.

The incident was immediately drawn as a hate crime against gay men and an example of discrimination towards LGBT people in Latvia.

On May 5, the police released a statement saying there was no evidence that a homophobic crime had taken place and that they were investigating whether the young medical worker had committed suicide.

Following initial reports of hate crime, supporters of LGBT rights went on social media to denounce conservative religious leaders and nationalist politicians of creating a hostile climate for gay people.

The National Alliance (NA), a member of Latvia’s five-party governing coalition, has proposed amending the country’s constitution to roll back decisions by the Latvian Constitutional Court recognizing certain rights for same-sex couples.

Kaspars Zalitis, board member of Mozaika, Latvia’s oldest and largest LGBT rights group, told EFE that what happened in Tukums had been prematurely exaggerated.

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