September 14, 2014 at 10:40 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
German man attending Serbian LGBT rights conference attacked

Frederick Center, gay news, Washington Blade

A German man who was attending an LGBT rights conference in the Serbian capital on Saturday was attacked by three men (Photo by Bigstock)

A German activist who was attending an LGBT rights conference in the Serbian capital was severely beaten on Saturday.

Jovanka Todorovic of Labris, a Serbian LGBT advocacy group, told the Associated Press that a group of men attacked the 27-year-old man early Saturday morning with a glass ashtray. The news agency reported the assailants told the man “we don’t want foreigners in Belgrade” as they attacked him.

Todorovic told the Washington Blade in an e-mail on Saturday the man who has not been publicly identified was “attacked and seriously injured.”

“He had an operation, but his life is still in danger,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Belgrade hospital where the man continues to receive treatment told the Associated Press he suffered internal bleeding and head injuries. She confirmed the man remains in “serious” condition after undergoing surgery.

The Associated Press reported Serbian police have arrested three men in connection with the attack.

Labris and other conference organizers on Saturday held a protest in Belgrade after news of the attack broke. Balkanist.net reported that German Ambassador to Serbia Heinz Wilhelm is among those who spoke at a press conference at the hotel where the two-day gathering took place.

“We decided to organize a demonstration in the streets of Belgrade against intolerance, hate crime and violence against minorities,” Todorovic told the Blade.

She also applauded Serbian police for their response to the incident.

“Police reaction was outstanding,” said Todorovic. “They protected us during the protest and in less than 24 hours all three perpetrators were arrested.”

Anti-LGBT violence remains pervasive throughout Serbia in spite of LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws.

The Serbian government last September cited threats of violence from anti-gay extremists for the reason it decided to cancel a Pride march in Belgrade hours before it had been scheduled to take place. Todorovic told the Blade last December during an interview in D.C. that U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Michael Kirby and officials from Sweden and the Netherlands had planned to take part in the event.

An unknown assailant or assailants vandalized the suburban Belgrade apartment of prominent LGBT rights advocate Boban Stojanović last October. Amnesty International said police found evidence that someone had tried to burn something around a bedroom window.

More than two dozen LGBT rights advocates from Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro in July attended a Belgrade training the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute organized as a way to encourage increased involvement in their respective countries’ political processes. The Washington-based organization is scheduled to hold additional trainings with Labris and the National Democratic Institute in the coming year.

Luis Abolafia, director of international programs for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, was among those attending the Belgrade conference when the German man was attacked.

“We call upon all human rights and antidiscrimination organizations, the Serbian civil society and all people of good will to build a strong alliance against hate crime, violence and any kind of minority related hostilities,” Todorovic told the Blade.

Ian Lekus of Amnesty International echoed Todorovic.

“We deplore yesterday’s tragic attack on the German national taking part in the LGBT rights conference in Belgrade, and we offer our condolences and our solidarity to him and to all conference participants,” Lekus told the Blade in a statement. “We call on all human rights supporters to stand in solidarity with Belgrade Pride organizers and participants. We also call on Serbian authorities to fully investigate and prosecute those responsible for yesterday’s attack, and to publicly commit to ensuring a safe and successful Belgrade Pride.”

Jovanka Todorovic, Labris-Lesbian Human Rights Organization, Serbia, gay news, Washington Blade

Jovanka Todorovic of Labris in D.C. last December. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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