Argentine Case to Be Tried Under New Hate Crime Law

Late at night on July 1, 1995, Claudio Salgueiro was looking for cigarettes near his house in the comfortable middle- class neighborhood of Belgrano.

He heard a voice calling out, “Hey you, yid.”

Salgueiro, who is not Jewish, kept walking. Suddenly, a fist landed hard on his face.

Salgueiro fell on the sidewalk. As he tried to protect himself from a shower of kicks, he heard his assailants insult him.

“Jews have to die. You are filth,” said an attacker.

Bleeding and in pain, Salgueiro was dragged to a nearby park and beaten again.

Before passing out, he heard his attackers discussing burning him alive. They also broke into a chant: “Death to the Rolling Stones, rock-and-roll and Jews! Long live the Fuhrer!”

Hours latter, Salgueiro was found by neighbors and taken to a hospital. He had sustained serious injuries to his back, hands and eyes. His face was a bloody, bloated mess.

In the following days, the victim learned he had been attacked by a neo-Nazi gang that had mistaken him for a Jewish neighbor.

Salgueiro, who is a Catholic of Portuguese descent, identified three of his six attackers who were subsequently arrested.

Now, for the first time in Argentine history, the skinheads will be tried under the harsh terms of a 1995 anti-discrimination law.

The law doubles the punishment for any crime committed with a racist, xenophobic or biased purpose.

The three skinheads, who refused to name their accomplices, face charges for aggravated assault.

The case has awakened much interest in Argentina, where security officials have warned lately of a “mild growth” in neo-Nazi activities.

The prosecutor, Miguel Romero, announced that he will ask the three-judge tribunal to have the accused serve at least three years in jail, plus an additional 18 months for their “political and racist motivations.”

Romero said in an interview that he will use the case “to expose neo-Nazi ideology as it is today in this country” and will try to show that the attack against Salgueiro is consistent with “their prejudice against Jews, homosexuals and immigrants from Bolivia and Paraguay.”

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