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St. Martin
official calls beating of gay Americans "barbaric"

St. Martin
official calls beating of gay Americans "barbaric"

The beating of two gay Americans with tire irons on St. Martin was "barbaric and inhumane" and the attackers will be punished, the Dutch Caribbean island's top tourism official said Wednesday. New York journalists Dick Jefferson, 51, and Ryan Smith, 25, were outside a Philipsburg bar with several friends Thursday when three men attacked them. Jefferson, who said the attackers had yelled antigay slurs at his friends earlier that evening, faulted local authorities for not speaking to witnesses the night of the crime or pursuing leads. At a weekly press briefing, commissioner of tourism Theo Heyliger called it a "barbaric and inhumane crime" and said it has the government's attention. "These kinds of crimes won't go unpunished on St. Martin," he said. Three detectives were investigating the incident, and the public prosecutor's office has ordered a probe into the police response, the local newspaper, The Daily Herald, reported Wednesday. Chief public prosecutor Taco Stein told the newspaper that authorities were speaking to witnesses. A U.S. gay human rights group has criticized St. Martin authorities, saying their response to the case has been sluggish. Jefferson, a senior broadcast producer for CBS's national evening news, described the attack as a hate crime. He welcomed Heyliger's comments but said, "It's been a week, and the people of St. Martin continue to hide these barbaric attackers. More than one person on that island knows who these people are, and it's up to those people to save their island." Jefferson was speaking by telephone from Miami, where he and Smith were airlifted after the attack for medical treatment. Jefferson, who has been released, said Smith is being treated for brain damage. Officials have received more than 500 e-mails, mostly from the United States, about the attack, which the prosecutor's office will respond to, Heyliger said. The government has held meetings with public prosecutors, police, the private sector, and counterparts on the island's French side about the attack, Heyliger said. The island, a popular Caribbean tourist destination, is shared by France and the Netherlands. (AP)

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St. Martin
official calls beating of gay Americans "barbaric"

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