Attack on VRT journalist investigated as possible gay hate crime

VRT journalist Riadh Bahri has been attacked in a Brussels street.  His attacker stole his chain and shouted at him calling him “dirty gay”.  Police in the capital have asked people to report all incidents that may be seen as gay hate attacks.

Riadh filed a complaint with Brussels police accusing his attacker of theft and inflicting a beating.  As the attacker also hurled homophobic abuse at his victim the police say this may be a gay hate crime.

Riadh is uninjured but says the incident left a deep impression on him. 

“There are no visible injuries, but my chest and legs are painful following the blows I received.  It’s really very sad.”

Police in the City of Brussels/Elsene zone received seven reports of possible homophobic hate crimes during the first half the year. “It’s not a lot” says Ilse Van de keere of Brussels police.  “The threshold to report such crimes is rather high.”

She calls on all victims to file a report.  This can be done at a police station, but also online via policeonweb.be, polbru.be or at the Rainbow House, a meeting house for LQBTQI+ organisations in the capital.

Police commissioner Olivier Slosse: “People may be fearful of being outed to family.  The police won’t do this.  As a victim you don’t always know whether your sexual orientation played a role.  That’s why it’s important to report what exactly the attacker said.”

Ronny Bekaert, who runs La Reserve, the oldest gay bar in Brussels, isn’t surprised people hesitate to report possible gay hate crimes: “It’s hard to discuss, because you put yourself in a vulnerable position.”

He offers a listening ear to punters in his bar and gives them a QR code that allows them to report crimes anonymously.

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