Violent attack on gay couple for holding hands not considered a hate crime

Ronnie (L) and Jasper Sewratan-Vernes (PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW/AFP/Getty Images)

The four Dutch teenagers facing court for attacking a gay couple will not be charged with a hate crime, the public prosecution has said.

Jasper and Ronnie Vernes-Sewratan were hospitalised after the attack in April, when they were walking hand in hand in Arnhem, the Netherlands.

The attackers, who were all aged between 14 and 16, will instead be charged with assault.

They reportedly screamed homophobic abuse at the couple, who were returning from a night out, before violently assaulting them both.

Ronnie was struck with a bolt-cutter, and lost four teeth.

“The investigation has not shown that discrimination or hatred of homosexuals was the reason behind the attack,” the public prosecution said in a statement today.

“Given the interest in the media and the public impression of what happened, the prosecutor will outline the reasoning during the trial.”

The accused will appear in court on December 19, in a closed-door hearing.

Violent attack on gay couple for holding hands not considered a hate crime
Jasper (L) and Ronnie Vernes-Sewratan (Omroep Gelderland)

The horrific incident sent shockwaves through the country, and hundreds of people held hands in Amsterdam in protest violence against LGBT people.

They used the hashtag “alle mannen hand in hand.”

Among them were a number of senior politicians, including Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher who held hands with their straight male collegues to show solidarity.

Violent attack on gay couple for holding hands not considered a hate crime

COC, a leading Dutch LGBT organisation, called on the government to take the incident as an indication that tougher measures need to be taken to tackle homophobic crime.

The chairman, Tanja Ineke, said there had been a rise in homophobic hate crime, from 400 in 2009 to almost 1600 in 2015.

She said as well as police measures there needed to be an increase of LGBT education in schools.

“If you talk about this, you can prevent a lot of trouble,” she said.

The Netherlands has often been considered a beacon for LGBT rights, since becoming the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001.