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28.06.2010 15:48
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Popular Gay Bar in Ljubljana Attacked (adds)

reaction by ministers, gay rights activist

Ljubljana, 28 June (STA) - Unknown perpetrators attacked last week a Ljubljana bar popular with the gay community with Molotov cocktails. The bar as well as the house of a judge who sentenced in March three men to prison for a 2009 assault on a gay activist were also sprayed with homophobic graffiti.

President Danilo Tuerk condemned on Sunday the "homophobic attacks on Open Cafe", saying in a statement that any violence is unacceptable, "especially when it expresses intolerance to people of other race, nationality, ethnic background, religion, sexual orientation or any other personal circumstance".

The president emphasised as particularly worrying the fact that unknown perpetrators wrote homophobic graffiti on the house of the judge who sentenced three men to a year and a half in prison each for attacking and injuring gay rights activist Mitja Blazic. The judge is the wife of Justice Minister Ales Zalar.

"Such an act implies an attempt of intimidation and retaliation, which is particularly dangerous for normal functioning of democratic society and law-governed state," Tuerk said.

The president called on the public to resolutely reject violence and contribute to the clear message that "we will not tolerate such acts in our society". He also expects from the police to investigate the incidents and to find the perpetrators.

Zalar confirmed for commercial broadcaster POP TV that a homophobic graffiti appeared on his house. "This was not only an inappropriate way to express was also an attack on the feeling of personal security of my family," he said on Sunday.

The justice minister assessed at a press conference held at Cafe Open on Monday that Slovenia's "democracy received a new bruise" with the attack. He called on all people to stand up against such acts.

According to Zalar, there seems to be a deep-rooted intolerance towards gays in Slovenia. "While it will be easy to paint over the graffiti, this intolerance will be more difficult to erase," he said. In his opinion, the passing of the family act bill, which provides equal status for gay couples as straight couples, is a good way of going about this.

This was echoed by Interior Minister Katarina Kresal, who said in a statement on Monday that such attacks amounted to an open assault on Slovenia's democratic society. She added that her ministry would continue to pursue a zero-tolerance policy to all violence.

According to Blazic, who was attacked last June in front of the Open Cafe bar during a literary evening as part of a gay and lesbian literature festival, last week's attacks on the bar are linked to activities around the Gay Pride Parade, which will be held in Ljubljana on Saturday.

Blazic told the STA on Monday that the latest incidents only reaffirm the need to "step up the fight for equal rights, equal opportunities and the respect of human rights". He said that while the aim of the perpetrators was to scare people away from the Gay Pride Parade, the attack would actually have the opposite effects.

Moreover, Blazic believes that supporters of the group who attacked him last year are unaware of the seriousness of the crime that had been committed. "They seem to think that it was only a bruise, but it was much more than that. It was an organised attack on a bar that is among others frequented by homosexuals."

Police Commissioner Janko Gorsek told POP TV on Sunday evening that the police will do everything in their power to find the perpetrators, adding that the police would "carry out all the necessary measures in line with the security plan for the Gay Pride Parade".

In a statement issued today, the Ljubljana Police Administration said that the perpetrators of the attacks would face charges of damaging private property and incitement to hatred and violence.

28.06.2010 15:48

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