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German gay rights activist severely beaten in Serbian capital
Heinz Wilhelm, center, the German ambassador to Belgrade, exits Belgrade Emergency Room after paying a visit to a German man assaulted earlier in Belgrade, Serbia, Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014. A German man who took part in a gay rights conference suffered life-threatening brain injuries when he was severely beaten in downtown Belgrade on Saturday, Serbian police and gay activists said. (AP / Marko Drobnjakovic)
BELGRADE, Serbia -- A German man who took part in a gay rights conference suffered life-threatening brain injuries when he was severely beaten in downtown Belgrade on Saturday, Serbian police and gay activists said.
The identity of the 27-year-old man has not been released. Police said later Saturday they have arrested three suspects.
Jovanka Todorovic, from the Labris gay and lesbian group, told The Associated Press that the man was attacked early morning by a group of young men who beat him with a glass ashtray and shouted: "We don't want foreigners in Belgrade!"
Doctors at Belgrade's emergency hospital said the man suffered internal bleeding and head injuries.
"He had a surgery and his condition is serious," said Dusan Jovanovic, deputy director of the hospital.
The German ambassador to Serbia, Heinz Georg Wilhelm, said that "he is awake, so that is already very good but it is still early to say something."
"The doctors told us that the first 24 hours you can't say very much, but he is awake and that is positive," Wilhelm added.
Serbia, which has a long history of attacks by far-right groups against gay activists, has repeatedly pledged to protect human rights as it seeks European Union membership.
Protesting the attack, hundreds of gay rights supporters marched in downtown Belgrade on Saturday carrying signs "Stop the Violence" and "Your Policies, Our Blood." A heavy anti-riot police force presence protected the demonstrators.
"If it's true that the attacker said that he does not want foreigners in Serbia, that gives a new xenophobic dimension to the whole incident," Wilhelm said.
Serbia's Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic pledged that police will identify the attackers. "I ordered an intensive investigation so the attackers are brought to justice soonest," he said.