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.