Wladimir Sepulveda, a 21-year-old Chilean man, has died of injuries suffered in a brutal homophobic attack last October. He has been in a coma since, El Pais reports:
According to the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh) – the country’s largest gay collective – Sepúlveda was beaten by at least four suspects as he was walking home with a friend after swimming in a nearby river in San Francisco de Mostazal, south of the Chilean capital.
Both Sepúlveda’s family and Movilh have announced they will press charges against all the suspects under anti-gay discrimination legislation that was passed following the violent 2012 death of another homosexual, Daniel Zamudio, which shocked the country.
“This latest death just goes to show how much more we have to advance as a society,” said Álvaro Elizalde, a government spokesman, in a statement. “We hope that justice will be served, the facts of the case are cleared, and the corresponding punishment is determined.”
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?”