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Verdict Issued in Lesbian Murder Trial


A judge in South Africa issued a mixed verdict on Tuesday in the trial of three men accused of raping and murdering soccer star and lesbian activist Eudy Simelane last year.

Two of the men accused were acquitted for lack of evidence, while one was sentenced to life in prison. All three were implicated by another man who pleaded guilty to the murder in February, before he later denied their involvement.

The proceedings demonstrated the challenges surrounding the prosecution of crimes against gays and lesbians in post-apartheid South Africa, where violent crime in general remains high.

"The Simelane case has been central to a campaign to bring attention to attacks against lesbians and gay men," according to The New York Times. "But sexual orientation was never established as a motive at the trial. Judge Mokgoathleng was uncomfortable with the term lesbian itself. 'Is there another word that you can use instead of that one?' he asked the prosecutor."

Simelane, who was 31 years old, was murdered in April 2008 while walking near her home in Kwa Thema township southeast of Johannesburg. Robbery supposedly motivated the suspects, who decided to rape the national soccer player after they discovered she carried no money. They stabbed Simelane to death when they realized she recognized one of them.

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Julie Bolcer