■ Riga Pride 2006: Police arrest a
demonstrator against Pride outside the building where the press
conference was being staged.
RIGA, January 15, 2008 – An
assistant to one of the members of the Latvian Saeima (Parliament) was found
guilty today in a criminal case of “hooliganism” during the Riga Gay Pride
in 2006 when participants had excrement thrown at them.
Janis Dzelme, a 32-years old
married man with two young children, was sentenced to 100 hours of
“compulsory labour” by the Vidzeme District Court of the city of Riga for
“gross public disorderliness as manifested in an obvious lack of respect
toward the public by ignoring universally accepted norms of behaviour”.
He works in the Saeima for Dainis
Turlais of the Latvia First Party (LLP) and is a member of the New
Generation Church, a homophobic Christian sect based in Riga with branches
The court ruled that on July 22,
2006, Dzelme attended an authorized anti-demonstration in Alberta Street
where Mozaika, an organisation for LGBT people and their friends, was
organising a press conference about the fact that the Riga City Council had
denied permission for a pride parade.
The court also found that during
that event, Dzelme threw a plastic bag containing a “stinking substance” at
the car of a Mozaika member.
Dzelme, who is close to the LPP, denied his guilt, but
he did confirm that he was at the location, saying that he went there to
"protest against gay propaganda."
Some 20 members of the New
Generation Church, including leader Aleksey Ledyayev, were in court to hear
the verdict and sentence.
“This is an enormously important
precedent which will send very strong signals to those people in Latvia who
believe that freedom of assembly and freedom of speech should be limited
with violence,” said the chairman of Mozaika Kristine Garina after the case.
“Let them understand that such
behaviour will have serious consequences,” she continued.
“The attack against homosexuals and
their supporters is a hate crime against a specific group in society, and
that is why it must be seen as a very serious violation.
“We are very pleased that both the
Prosecutor-General’s Office and the court agree with us. Today we can feel
safer and more equal than we did in the summer of 2006.”
Mr. Turlais is one of the most homophobic lawmakers in
the Saeima. He has called gays “bacteria” and “pigs”. The LPP is noted for
its homophobic stance in Latvian politics.
In today’s trial, the prosecutor asked for a fine of
1,600 Ls (about $US3,400). But the sentence of 100 hours compulsory labour
is widely seen as a more severe penalty.
Mr. Ledyayev and the New Generation
Church are part of the Watchmen on the Walls group – a particularly
homophobic group which includes among it members the Americans Scott Lively,
co-author of The Pink Swastika: Homosexuals
and the Nazi Party,
and former NFL player Ken Hutcherson. Both have been in Riga in the past
year – last March, Hutcherson, who runs the Antioch Bible Church near
Seattle, told members of the Saeima that he was a special
representative of President Bush. The White House strongly denied that any
such appointment was made, but Hutcherson maintained that he had video
evidence – though he has so far failed to make this available.
■ Another court hearing concerning
Riga Friendship Days and Gay Pride events is expected this week. On
Thursday, a resident of Riga and his 15 year old son are due to face charges
of throwing explosives at a group of people who were leaving the Vermanes
Park after the 2007 “march for equality”.
■ Mr. Ledyayev is due to travel to the United States
later this month to speak at the
Pastors Conference” in Mount Paran Church, Atlanta between
January 29 and 31.
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Licence.
Posted: 15 January 2008 at
14:00 (UK time)