A gay man in Latvia has died following injuries he sustained after being set alight. Authorities are now investigating the circumstance surrounding his death.
Normunds Kindzulis, 29, was a paramedic. He lived around 70km west of Latvia’s capital, Riga, in the quiet town of Tukums.
In the early hours of 23 April, a colleague and roommate, Artis Jaunklavin, says he found Kindzulis outside their flat, “burning like a torch.”
“I tried to put out the flames, I carried him and put him in the bathtub, but the burns were too severe, his toasted clothes were embedded in the skin.”
Kindzulis had previously been threatened several times because of his sexuality by a neighbor in his block. He had been attacked at least four times in the past.
“We reported these threats to both the police and the neighbor’s workplace, but there was no reaction,” Jaunklavin said. “We had to wait for someone to be mutilated or killed.”
Both Kindzulis and Jaunklavin were taken to hospital. Kindzulis had burns to 85% of his body, while Jaunklavin sustained injuries in trying to put out the flames. Kindzulis’ clothes had been doused in a flammable liquid.
View this post on Instagram
On April 28, it was confirmed that Kindzulis had died as a result of his injuries. His death, following a history of homophobic threats, has shocked the country. Some local activists think he may have been the victim of a hate attack.
Normunds Kindzulis, a victim of the homophobic arson attack in Latvia last week, has succumbed to his injuries. Our deepest condolences to his partner and family, and to all our community in Latvia. 🖤 pic.twitter.com/IM90oTk80E
— EuroPride • EPOA (@EuroPride) April 28, 2021
The European Pride Organisers Association tweeted, “Normunds Kindzulis, a victim of the homophobic arson attack in Latvia last week, has succumbed to his injuries. Our deepest condolences to his partner and family, and to all our community in Latvia.”
It’s been reported that local police were initially reluctant to investigate the incident as a hate crime. They said they did not rule out suicide, with the Deputy Chief of the Latvia police, Andrejs Grishins, telling reporters last Thursday that, “Driving someone to the verge of suicide is also a crime.”
Naidam Latvijā nav vietas. Ja apstiprināsies, ka Tukuma noziedznieka motivācija ir bijusi naids pret kādu sabiedrības daļu, tad tas pastiprina viņa vainu. Latvijas sabiedrības vērtība ir iecietība, un šāda naida izpausme vienlaikus ir noziegums pret sabiedrību.
— Egils Levits (@valstsgriba) April 24, 2021
Latvian president Egils Levits tweeted, “There is no place for hate in Latvia. If it is confirmed that the motivation of the Tukums criminal was hatred of a part of the society, then it increases his guilt. The value of Latvian society is tolerance, and such an expression of hatred is at the same time a crime against society.”
Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš said the “heinous crime” should be “thoroughly investigated.”
Latvia lag behind other parts of Europe when it comes to LGBTQ rights. The annual Pride march in Riga is often met with far-right counter-protests. There is no legal recognition of same-sex couples, and earlier this year, the Latvian parliament, the Saeima, voted overwhelmingly to amend its constitution to define the family strictly as a “union of a male and female person.”