Friday, October 7, 2011

Fifth gay murder in Johannesburg comes to light.

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Gay Rights Activists Condemn Authorities after Another Murder in Johannesburg. 

South Africa’s Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) has condemned the police and the department of Justice for not doing enough about the murders of LGBTI around the country.
The statement was issued on October 5, a few days after the Star newspaper published the details of what it suggested was the emergence of a serial killer targeting the Joburg gay community over the past year.
In the statement the CGE said, “As enshrined in our Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgendered and Intersex people (LGBTI) have the same rights just like everyone else.”
They added, “The continual hatred and killings of LGBTI people is violation of founding provisions of the South African Constitution which are equality and human dignity. Such horrendous deeds are not only meant to rob society and the families of good people who do not deserves to go through these gruesome acts but shows that some in our society are very intolerant and unable to appreciate the diverse society that we live in.”
Meanwhile the Star newspaper on October 6 reported that stories had emerged of a fifth murder of a gay man in Johannesburg that bore similarities to the previous four that it had reported on in its October 3 edition.
The Star reported that the victim of the fifth murder, which apparently occurred in April this year, was Manolis Veloudos who was found in his home in Greenside bound and murdered, seemingly by someone he had invited into his home. Apparently there was no sign of forced entry onto the property, and very little was stolen.
According to the Star, Veloudos was also discovered to have an online dating site profile, which he had used to meet men, much like in the cases of several of the other victims.
The difference with the other cases, according to the Star was that Veloudos was bludgeoned to death with his laptop rather than strangled.
In the Veloudos case, the Star reports that a suspect was charged with murder but that DNA evidence taken from the scene did not match the suspect and therefore this means the murderer may still be on the loose.
The Star reported, “The victim’s niece, Evita Veloudos, said CCTV footage of her uncle with an unknown man on the night of the murder was given to the police, but it was subsequently lost by the investigating officers.”
Meanwhile the CGE’s spokesman Javu Baloyi said in the statement, “The Commission is also concerned about the long delays in cases relating to this issue. CGE views these acts as criminal acts and the perpetrators deserve to face the full might of the law, henceforth serve long sentence in jail if proven to have committed these atrocities.”
He added, “The continued use of culture in order to disguise for criminal intent against LGBTI people has to be strongly condemned.”
The CGE statement ended with a plea to “all interested parties to rally around LGBTI people and help society to understand that LGBTI people are human beings who deserves respect and protection regardless of their sexual orientation.”
The Commission promised to continue to monitor cases that involve LGBTI throughout the country and to support to the passing of hate crime legislation.

Johannesburg Police Really Suck 

at Finding Anti-Gay Serial Killers

Even though Johannesburg police discovered the murder of Manolis Veloudos last April, only recently did they consider that he might be a fifth possible victim in the recent string of anti-gay murders which have plagued the South African capital over the last ten months. However two details stick out in Veloudos’s murder—the fact that he was killed in a way very different from the other four men and the fact that the police botched his investigation with stunning incompetence.
Like the other four men, police found no signs of forced entry which suggests that they all knew willingly invited their killer into their homes. Veloudos was bound and murdered and had very little stolen, just like the other victims; he also had an online dating profile like a few of the other victims. However, Veloudos died after getting beaten to death with his laptop, rather than getting strangled like the four other victims.
Police collected DNA evidence and arrested a suspect, but the suspect’s DNA did not match the DNA they found, so the police let him go. Also, the victim’s niece, Evita Veloudos, gave CCTV footage of her uncle with an unknown man on the night of the murder to the police, but the investigating officers lost the footage.
The police (in)action on these cases has gotten so bad that even the local Commission on Gender Equality has criticized the Department of Justice for dawdling. The commission’s spokesperson said, “Cases of this nature are not taken seriously by the police or the justice department.”
It’s also surprising that the police have not yet had any luck following up on the personal e-mails traded between the victims and their potential hook-ups before their deaths. Surely commonalities between their inboxes and cell phone records would create a trail to possible suspects. 

South Africa Call to Solve Gay 'Serial Killings'

A gay and lesbian parade in South Africa (archive shot)South Africa's gay and lesbian community has waged a long campaign for equal rights

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Rights activists in South Africa have strongly condemned the police for failing to solve the murders of five gay men by a suspected serial killer.
The five were strangled or bludgeoned to death in their Johannesburg homes in the past 18 months, reports say.
The Commission on Gender Equality told the BBC it was concerned about the police's failure to speedily investigate these alleged hate crimes. Homophobia is widespread in South Africa, despite its liberal laws.
Johannesburg's The Star newspaper reported that four of the gay men were tied and strangled in the last 10 months, while the fifth was tied and bludgeoned to death in April last year.
This has raised suspicions that the murders were carried out by a serial killer or a homophobic gang, it reports.
Police found no evidence of forced entry into the homes, suggesting that the killer or killers knew the victims and had been invited in, the newspaper says.
But police spokesman Col Lungelo Dlamini told the BBC there was no evidence of a serial killer on the loose and they were investigating the cases "individually".'Deep-rooted hatred'
The Commission on Gender Equality's spokesman Javu Baloyi said police should put more effort in their investigations.
We don't place greater or less importance on any case,” Col Lungelo DlaminiPolice spokesman. "Cases take too long, even if there is compelling evidence of hate crimes," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme. He said South Africa's tiny gay and lesbian community was gripped by fear. "We have got one of the best constitutions. Yet, people have got deep-rooted hatred for gays and lesbians," Mr Baloyi said.
South Africa is the only African country and one of only 10 in the world to have legalised homosexual marriage. Its constitution specifically forbids discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Col. Dlamini denied that police were slow in investigating hate crimes. "We investigate each case based on the evidence from the scene and the information at our disposal," he said. "We don't place greater or less importance on any case. We work with the information we can gather."
Homophobia is common in most African countries because of strong religious and cultural beliefs.

Fifth Gay Murder Comes to Light

October 6 2011 - By Shain Germaner
Comment on this story

The latest victim discovered, 
Manolis Veloudos.
The Commission on Gender Equality has slammed the police and the Department of Justice for not doing their best to solve homophobic crimes.
The Star reported recently on the striking similarity in the murders of four gay men. And in the wake of the commission’s condemnation of the violence against the gay community, The Star has also been alerted to a fifth murder that bears similarities to the other cases.
The commission has said it was concerned about lengthy delays in cases relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.
It said full investigations needed to be conducted, especially into the murders mentioned in The Star’s report.
The commission’s spokesman, Javu Baloyi, said there was outrage in the commission after The Star reported on the four murders.
“Cases of this nature are not taken seriously by the police or the justice department,” he said.
“It is our firm belief that the Department of Constitutional Development and Justice has to come to the party in ensuring that the plight of LGBT (and intersexed) people (receive the necessary attention and investigation),” he added.
All four victims mentioned in The Star’s report on Monday were killed in the past 10 months. They were tied up and strangled inside private homes within the greater Joburg area.
Police reported no signs of forced entry and believe these killings may be the work of a serial killer or a homophobic gang.
The lack of break-ins may mean the victims knew their would-be killers and could have invited them in.
The victim who has come to light after the previous report in The Star is Manolis Veloudos. He was found in his home in Greenside in April last year.
He was bound and murdered, seemingly by someone he had invited into his home. Again, there was no sign of forced entry onto the property, and very little was stolen.
He was also discovered to have an online dating site profile, which he had used to meet men, much like in the cases of several of the other victims.
However, Veloudos was bludgeoned to death with his laptop rather than strangled.
While a suspect was charged with murder, DNA evidence taken from the scene did not match the suspect.
This means the murderer may still be on the loose.
The victim’s niece, Evita Veloudos, said CCTV footage of her uncle with an unknown man on the night of the murder was given to the police, but it was subsequently lost by the investigating officers.
The most recent victim, Barney van Heerden, 39, was found bound and strangled in his Orange Grove home on September 19.
The murder was discovered by security guards after they had noticed his car gate open and his front door unlocked.
Since the incident was reported, distraught relatives, friends and other members of the gay community have come forward, describing other recent violent crimes that seemed similar.
In the first attack in December last year, Jim Cathels was found dead at his home in Berea.
Four months ago, Oscar O’Hara, 33, was bound and strangled by an unknown assailant or assailants.
Siphiwe Selby Nhlapo, 36, was killed in a similar manner at his flat in Kliptown, Soweto, on September 11, a week before Van Heerden’s death.
Anyone with information on similar crimes in recent months is requested to e-mail the details to shain.germaner - The Star 


Iran executes three men 
for sodomy!
                           By Dan Littauer, Executive Editor,
The Prosecutor General Office of Khuzestan Province, Iran announced in a press conference that three people were hanged at Karoun prison in Ahwaz city, for sodomy on early Sunday, 4th of Sept., along with three other men.
Khuzestan/Al-Ahwaz is a mostly Arab province in Iran and has the highest amount of executions in the country.
The two articles that were used in the judgment were: 108 "Lavat is an act of congress [vati] between males whether in [the form of] penetration or of tafkhiz (the rubbing of thighs/of the penis against thighs)” and article 110 stating: ”The hadd [punishment] for lavat where penetration has occurred is death and the method of execution is at the discretion of the Sharia judge".
The state-run Iranian Students News Agency ISNA identified the three as: "M. T.", "T. T." and "M. Ch." (ages not mentioned), There are unconfirmed reports about the city of origin, as soon as they are confirmed we will publish more. We still have no information on the background to the case.
The three were judged in the revolutionary court of Ahwaz city, section 17 (behind closed doors). The ruling was approved by Section 14 of the Iranian Supreme Court. At this point we do not know if the courts allowed proper legal representation.
The three other men who were executed committed different crimes. Two committed a robbery at a home of a (straight) couple, where while the husband was tied up his wife was raped. The third for drug trafficking.
According to spokesperson Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam of the Iran Human Rights (IHR), executions only for sodomy are rare. Iranian authorities usually present such cases as rape (in order to legitimise the case for execution). “This of course contradicts the infamous statement of Ahmadinejad that gays do not exist in Iran”, he added in a conversation with GME’s editor.
Mohammad Mustafaei,the esteemed Iranian Human Rights lawyer (whose more known defense cases were Ashtiani and Ebrahim Hamidi), now exiled in Norway, wrote an open letter to President Ahmadinejad in protest of the execution of the three. He called the execution arbitrary and demanded further clarifications: “Were the cases approved by the Supreme Court and given a hearing as well as permission for execution?” “Were the three represented by lawyers, and what are their names?” are some of the questions he posed.
Three men under the pretext of being ‘gay’ and committing sodomy were sentenced to death and executed,” he insisted. Mustafaei further highlighted that they may have been tortured by the authorities to confess for the “crime,” which indeed is a very common in Iran. “Mr. President,” he protested, “you have blood on your hands.”
Daniel Brett, director of the Ahwazi Arab Solidarity Network, stressed that: "We do not know the background to the cases, so cannot make a judgment on the trials of those who were executed ... Sometimes these charges are leveled at members of families who are involved in commercial or land disputes with families with a modicum of political influence. Al-Ahwaz has the highest rate of executions in Iran, partly due to the persecution of the local Arab population and partly because prisoners from other parts of Iran are transported to the city, particularly the notorious Karoun Prison where hangings are carried out in secret."
In some cases, there is a dispute whether the accused has actually committed a sexual act or it is a mere accusation. Even in the cases where the same sex act has happened, often it is not clear whether the individuals involved are actually gay or it is an occasional act of fun for them.
Soheila Vahadati, an independent human rights defender based in San Francisco stresses: "The fact that the two genders are strictly segregated and prohibited from socialising together increases the tendency for same-sex acts among the youth." Indeed this happens throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
"Ahmadinejad may have been right claiming that there are no gays in Iran because nobody dares to choose gay lifestyle due to the severe punishments, including the death penalty," Vahadati said. "In our view, it really does not matter whether the people involved are gay, or straight. It does not even matter whether they have committed the same sex act, or it is a mere accusation. The underlying assumption in all cases is that homosexuality is a 'crime' and punishable by law, and this is what we strongly oppose. Sexual rights are human rights and all individuals are entitled to enjoy them with mutual consent and as there is no violence involved. We strongly oppose labeling same sex as a 'crime' as much as we oppose punishing gays."
Ahmadinejad infamously claimed: "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like you do in your country. This does not exist in our country." This execution clearly contradicts his own words and reveal further the terrible situation LGBT people face in Iran. The context and background to this case need to be studied carefully. Is this signalling a more brutal policy by the Iranian authorities? Was the press release not coordinated with the authorities in Iran? How was the judgement arrived to? Is it based on the "Judge's special knowledge", a notorious clause that needs no evidence as was in the case of Hamidi? Where the legal procedures followed, as in proper legal representation, and the right to appeal ? We call upon an investigation and truthful response to Mustafaei's open letter.
GME completely condemns and rejects capital punishment for LGBT people, or for any other issue: We stand for sexual rights. LGBT sexualities/identities are NOT a crime, and their use as labels for punishment (whether real or as a tool for other means) must end. GME calls upon the Iranian Authorities to strike off articles 108-134 of the Iranian penal codes that pertain to LGBT people as well as end capital punishment. The clause pretaining to the judge's "special knowledge" should also be struck off; it very often contradicts evidence. LGBT rights are inseparable part of human rights!
GME has already noted how people are being put to death by the Iranian authorities based on mere false accusations and rumors of rape or attempted rape between men. Many executions of LGBT people occur in Iran each year for bringing “shame” and “dishonor” to families and communities (so called honour crimes), often without being reported, both directly by families and communties as well as by the authorties. Many more suffer from lifelong harassment, blackmail and even rape by agents of the Basij and the Sepha. We call upon the international community to campaign against such horrible practices as punishing people for their sexualities and capital punishment.
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