Belgian politicians have spoken out in condemnation after a 42-year-old man was found murdered in a park in the East Flemish city of Beveren, near Antwerp, with local media reporting that the murder was a homophobic hate crime.
A cyclist discovered the body Saturday morning, and phoned the police while keeping his distance, thinking the man was still alive. But the victim, who had been stabbed and badly beaten, was already dead, prompting police to dredge a nearby pond in search of the murder weapon.
Although there were no witnesses, suspects were identified quickly and several have been arrested. The first of them belongs to a homophobic group of “gay bashers” that use gay dating sites to ambush and then assault gay men, reports De Standaard.
Politicians have reacted to the news this morning on Twitter, including Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who said he was “shocked” by the homophobia.
Ik ben zwaar geschokt door de extreme homohaat in Beveren. Dit is echt verschrikkelijk.
Mijn diep medeleven aan de familie en vrienden van het slachtoffer.
Justitie moet nu zijn werk doen. Maar laat één ding duidelijk zijn: we zullen in ons land dit geweld nooit aanvaarden.
— Alexander De Croo (@alexanderdecroo) March 8, 2021
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. Justice must now do its job. But let one thing be clear: we will never accept this violence in our country.
Annelies Verlinden, Minister of the Interior, said that there is no room for homophobic violence “in a mature society.”
In een volwassen samenleving is er geen plaats voor homofoob geweld. De gebeurtenissen in #beveren zijn volstrekt onaanvaardbaar. Ik leef mee met de familie en vrienden van het slachtoffer.
— Annelies Verlinden (@AnneliesVl) March 8, 2021
In a mature society there is no room for homophobic violence. The events in #beveren are completely unacceptable. I sympathize with the family and friends of the victim.
Tinne Van der Straeten, Minister of Energy, also made mention of the murder.
“No voice can be loud enough against the murder in Beveren,” she wrote. “Justice must do its job. At the same time, a broad approach is needed against the creeping poison of hatred.”
Geen stem kan luid genoeg klinken tegen de moord in #beveren. Extreme haat met de dood tot gevolg. Omdat je als man van mannen houdt. Justitie moet zijn werk doen. Tegelijk is brede aanpak nodig tegen het sluipend gif van haat.
— Tinne Van der Straeten (@TinneVdS) March 8, 2021
No voice can be loud enough against the murder in #beveren. Extreme hatred resulting in death. Because as a man you love men. Justice must do its job. At the same time a broad approach is needed against the creeping poison of hatred.
The victim is from a village near Sint-Niklaas, and was studying for a degree. He was described by an acquaintance as being openly gay, with a wide circle of friends.
While the public prosecutor’s office will not yet comment on the matter, they have confirmed the arrests and said that the motive is still being investigated. Some outlets report that the murderers are thought to be minors.
The man is the second in Belgium known to have been clearly murdered for being gay. In 2012, Ihsane Jarfi was killed in Liège by four men for the same reason. A silent march is held in his memory each year on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
The Brussels Times