21-year-old gay man dies from injuries six months after savage attack
Published On : Mon, Apr 7th, 2014
Sexual rights groups call for reform of landmark anti-hate law as Wladimir Sepúlveda dies from wounds after half a year in a coma.
Chile’s largest gay rights group called for reform of a recent and celebrated anti-hate law on Sunday in response to the death of 21-year-old Wladimir Sepúlveda who died from injuries sustained months earlier in a vicious attack which they say was motivated by homophobia.
In October 2013, six men attacked Sepúlveda after he approached them for a cigarette in the center of San Francisco de Mostazal, a small town near Rancagua. The assailants kicked and punched their victim — using homophobic slurs throughout, according to some witnesses — seriously damaging Sepúlveda’s major organs and leaving him in a coma from which he would never recover.
The only suspect, Christopher Morales, admits involvement in the attack but denies homophobic intent. Following Sepúlveda’s death, the public prosecutor’s office announced plans to upgrade charges against Morales — currently on partial house arrest awaiting trial — from grievous bodily harm to murder on Monday.
Campaign group and legal representatives of the victim’s family, the Movement for Integration and Homosexual Freedom (Movilh), criticized the judge presiding over the trial in a public statement on Sunday.
“Today, Wladimir lost his life while the only person to admit to the crime, Christopher Morales, is only on night-time house arrest as a result of the incomprehensible decision of Judge Pablo Aceituno,” reads the statement. “This judge is the same person who — at the beginning of proceedings and without knowing the details of the case — discounted the possibility that this was a homophobic attack. Furthermore, he suggested it was ‘logical and normal’ to attack someone based on their sexual orientation. In light of this unacceptable behavior, we are considering taking disciplinary action against the judge.”
Families and friends of Sepúlveda say they have received threats after charges were made.
Movilh President Rolando Jiménez said the Sepúlveda case highlighted flaws in the country’s first comprehensive anti-discrimination law — dubbed the “Zamudio law” in commemoration of the 24-year-old slain by self-proclaimed neo-nazis in 2012.
“One of the most important issues is to invert the burden of proof. It should be the brutal attackers — like those in the case of Wladimir — who must prove their actions were not based on prejudice rather than leaving it to the victim to prove the presence of homophobia,” Jiménez said in a press release. “In this instance, the law descends into absurdity. Wladimir has been in a vegetative state since the attack, how can he prove his version of events?”
Secretary General Álvaro Elizalde expressed condolences on the part of the government toward Sepúlveda’s family Sunday.
“This new death reveals how much progress is yet to be made to advance as a society,” he told press. “We hope that judicial system completes its duty, clarifying the events and applying the corresponding sanctions.”
In its 2014 annual report on homophobia and discrimination against other sexual minorities, Movilh estimated four people died in 2013 as a result of homophobic attacks.
By Sam Edwards ([email protected])
Copyright 2014 – The Santiago Times