A 29-year-old openly gay paramedic  died in Latvia, following a suspected homophobic attack. Normunds Kindzulis, suffered burns to 85 percent of his body after a horrific attack on April 23. A neighbour is suspected to have doused the victim’s clothes in gasoline and set him alight.

Local police were reportedly hesitant initially to investigate the horrendous act, in what some campaigners have denounced as “police inaction”. This was despite the fact that Kindzulis had previously received a number of homophobic threats, which saw him move from Riga to Tukums, a quiet town 70 kilometres west of the capital.

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Local police did not at first rule out suicide due to the threats he had received. But as Latvian police officer Andrejs Grishins told reporters on Thursday “Bringing someone to the brink of suicide is also a crime.” A proper investigation has now been ordered into the attack following a public outcry.

It is also alleged that a second man- Artis Jaunklavins, a colleague and roommate is still hospitalised after he also suffered burns to his body whilst trying to save Kindzulis.

Jaunklavins told a Delfi news website that he had discovered Kindzulis “burning like a torch” outside their home. He said the pair had reported to the authorities how another resident in their apartment building had on numerous occasions  threatened both of them.

“I tried to put out the flames, I carried him and put him in the bathtub, but the burns were too severe, his toasted clothes were embedded in the skin.”

“We reported these threats to both the police and the neighbour’s workplace, but there was no reaction,” he said. “We had to wait for someone to be mutilated or killed.”

Confirming the news of Kindzulis death last Wednesday, the European Pride Organisers Association tweeted “Normunds Kindzulis, a victim of the homophobic arson attack in Latvia last week, has succumbed to his injuries. Our deepest condolences to his partner and family, and to all our community in Latvia.”

Following Kindzulis death, activists from around the world have been quick to denounce the horrific attack. They paid tribute to the young man via social media, with one twitter user summing up the news perfectly, tweeting: 

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“If we think we’re anywhere near having equality in the world, think again. Many countries where your life and well-being are at risk for your sexuality. I read with some shock yesterday a tweet from a gay guy about homophobic taunts ‘not being that bad’.

“There is no place for hate in Latvia. If it is confirmed that the motivation of the Tukums criminal was hatred of a part of the society, then it increases his guilt. The value of Latvian society is tolerance, and such an expression of hatred is at the same time a crime against society,” Latvian president Egils Levits tweeted.

 

Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš said the “heinous crime” should be “thoroughly investigated.”

Yet as many activists have been quick to point out, the country has a long way to go before it can say they fully accept and support the rights of LGBTQI+ communities. Earlier this year the Latvian parliament, the Saeima, overwhelmingly voted to amend its constitution to define the family strictly as a “union of a male and female person”.

 

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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