The trial of four men who are accused of beating a gay man to death in the Chilean capital last year began on Monday.
Prosecutors contend Patricio Ahumada Garay and three other self-described neo-Nazis — Raúl López Fuentes, Alejandro Angulo Tapia and Fabián Mora Mora — attacked Daniel Zamudio in a Santiago park on March 3, 2012, because he was gay. Authorities allege the four men attacked Zamudio with bottles and other blunt objects before they cut off part of his ear, carved swastikas into his chest and burned other parts of his body with cigarettes.
Zamudio died in a Santiago hospital more than three weeks after the attack.
Crime was ‘point of inflection’ for Chilean lawmakers, society
Zamudio’s death sparked widespread outrage across Chile.
President Sebastián Piñera in July 2012 signed a hate crimes and anti-discrimination bill that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression that had languished in the South American country’s Congress for seven years. Jaime Parada Hoyl of the Chilean LGBT advocacy group Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh,) who last November became the first openly gay political candidate elected in the country when he won a seat on the municipal council in the Providencia section of Santiago, said Zamudio’s death prompted lawmakers and Chilean society to address homophobia and transphobia.
“This case was an earthquake of a loss of a human life, but it was a point of inflection,” Parada told the Washington Blade during an interview in D.C. last September.
Advocates remain concerned about anti-LGBT violence in Chile in spite of the law named in honor of Zamudio.
Six men reportedly used homophobic slurs as they attacked Esteban Navarro Quinchevil with knives, machetes and iron bars at a suburban Santiago soccer field in June. A transgender teenager from the coastal city of Cartagena in May lost an eye during an alleged anti-trans attack.
Piñera’s spokesperson, Cecilia Pérez, met with Navarro’s parents and the trans teenager at the presidential palace in Santiago in July.
Ahumada, whom prosecutors say masterminded the attack against Zamudio, could face life in prison if convicted. López, who reportedly confessed to the crime, and Angulo and Mora each face a sentence of up to 20 years.
“We are hoping for the maximum punishment for each of those responsible for the murder of Daniel Zamudio, who after being tortured on March 3, 2012, lost his life,” Movilh said in a statement on Sunday.
Movilh added it and the group’s lawyers who are representing Zamudio’s family feel the case is historic because the result “will clearly establish whether how far the justice system and the courts have advanced or not around the principle of non-discrimination and equality for sexual minorities.” Parada told the Blade on Sunday the trial is expected to last roughly 20 days.
“Daniel Zamudio left us a big legacy: the Zamudio law and a better social sensibility towards diversity,” Movilh said. “Our society and country are still in debt to him. The debt will only be repaid with full and total justice.”