Spanish police have arrested three people in connection with the killing of a young gay man whose death in a possible homophobic attack over the weekend shocked the country and sparked nationwide protests.
Samuel Luiz, a 24-year-old nursing assistant, was out with friends in the Galician city of A Coruña in the early hours of Saturday when an argument started outside a nightclub.
His friends told El Mundo that Luiz had stepped out of the club to make a video call when two passersby accused him of trying to film them on his phone. Luiz explained he was talking to a friend by video, but he was allegedly attacked by one of the passersby and left with a badly bruised face.
Five minutes later, the assailant allegedly returned with 12 others who beat Luiz unconscious. He was taken to hospital, where he died later on Saturday morning.
On Tuesday evening, Spain’s Policía Nacional said three people had been arrested as “the alleged perpetrators of the violence assault that ended Samuel Luiz’s life”.
In a statement, the force said the three were aged between 20 and 25 and lived in A Coruña. It did not rule out further arrests and said the investigation would remain open until all the facts of the case had been clarified.
The attack prompted revulsion across Spain and led to demonstrations on Monday night in cities including A Coruña, Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Salamanca, Bilbao and Zaragoza. Demonstrators carried signs with slogans including “Your homophobia is killing us”. Politicians in Madrid have asked the central government for explanations after some protesters in the capital were kettled and charged by riot police late on Monday.
Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, denounced the killing and offered his condolences to Luiz’s friends and family. “I’m confident that the police investigation will soon find those who murdered Samuel and shed light on what happened,” he tweeted on Monday. “It was a savage and merciless act. We will not take a step backwards when it comes to rights and freedoms and Spain will not tolerate this.”
José Miñones, the central government’s delegate in Galicia, said police were examining whether the attack was motivated by homophobia, adding that the investigation was at a crucial stage. He said 15 people had given statements about what happened. “The [security] cameras are going to help us clarify what happened,” he told Radio Voz on Tuesday.
The killing came less than a week after Spain’s annual Pride celebrations and days after Sánchez’s Socialist-led coalition government approved a draft law to protect and strengthen the rights of LGBTI people.
Campaigners said the attack was proof of the violence to which LGBTI people are still subjected. “We are being abused and murdered for being LGBTI,” the State Federation of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals said in a statement on Twitter. “We will not rest.”
The federation said that while events such as Pride made it easy to “celebrate diversity for one month a year, this will not stop until we are all 100% committed to it for ever”.
A study published last year by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights found that 41% of those surveyed in Spain had experienced some form of harassment for being LGBTI in the previous 12 months. It also found 32% of respondents in Spain often or always avoided certain places or locations for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed due to being LGBTI.