Latin America & Caribbean

Chile prosecutors seek murder charges over gay attack

Two girls look at a picture of Chilean Daniel Zamudio placed outside the public hospital in Santiago on March 28, 2012
Image caption Hundreds gathered in Santiago to attend a vigil for Daniel Zamudio, who died on Tuesday

Chilean prosecutors say they will seek murder charges against four suspected neo-Nazis accused of attacking and killing a young gay man.

Daniel Zamudio died on Tuesday, 25 days after the assault, in which his attackers carved swastika symbols into his body.

Hundreds attended a vigil for the 24-year-old in the capital, Santiago, on Wednesday.

The assault has sparked outrage and a fresh debate over hate crimes in Chile.

The government has pledged to increase efforts to pass an anti-discrimination law, which is currently being considered by the Chilean Congress.

'Murderous arrogance'

The four suspects have been jailed on charges of attempted murder.

In the hours after Mr Zamudio's death, prosecutor Ernesto Vazquez requested that the charges be changed to premeditated murder.

He said the assault had been clearly motivated by homophobia, the Associated Press reports.

Image caption Daniel Zamudio was allegedly beaten for an hour

Chile's interior minister, Rodrigo Hinzpeter, was booed and heckled when he came to share his condolences with crowds gathered outside the hospital where Mr Zamudio died.

He promised that the government would work hard to pass the anti-discrimination law, which was first proposed seven years ago.

"Since this aggression - Daniel's murder - happened, we have had a relative education on how we are going to construct a more harmonious society, with more love, where no-one - no-one - is discriminated against for any reason, because all Chileans have the same rights.

"There is no-one in our society who can feel such murderous arrogance that they can attack and assault a fellow citizen for any reason," he said.

Jaime Parada, spokesman for Chile's leading gay rights group, the Movement for Homosexual Liberation and Integration, said the case highlighted how gay men and women in Chile live in fear.

"We are fighting for an anti-discrimination law, for changes in language so people stop treating us like we are ill and make sure that the church does not treat us like sinners and so on."

Mr Zamudio, a clothing store salesman, was left with severe head injuries and a broken right leg after being attacked in Santiago on 3 March.

He was allegedly beaten for an hour by his attackers, who stubbed cigarettes out on him and carved swastikas into his body.

More on this story