AFP reports that the men, all from the same village of Zaporozhye in far eastern Russia, committed the murder last May because they were “convinced of the non-traditional sexual orientation of their fellow villager,” regional prosecutors said in a statement, using a euphemism for being gay.
“Taking into account the role of each, the court sentenced them to 12-and-a-half years, 10-and-a-half years and nine years in a strict-regime prison colony,” prosecutors said.
According to court documents and testimony from investigators, the three men “lured the man in his car to a deserted part of the forest. There, the eldest man stabbed the victim multiple times in the chest, face and neck, and two others kicked him.”
They placed the 39-year-old victim’s body in his car and set it on on fire.
The convicted are aged 26, 22 and 18, the youngest still a minor at the time of the crime, prosecutors said.
While it was highly unusual for Russian prosecutors to state publicly that the motive was homophobia, the men were prosecuted for murder, not a hate crime, a classification that is rarely used.
Article continues belowThe attack last May came while Russian lawmakers were debating the country’s controversial anti-gay propaganda law, that was signed weeks later by president Vladimir Putin.
Gay rights activists noted at the time that the murder was an example of rising violence against the Russian LGBTQ community, calling the bill a “homophobic policy” that is giving Russians “carte blanche” to attack gays.
Putin however, has publicly maintained that gays and lesbians face no discrimination as a result of the law.