A Spanish man who said he had been attacked by a masked gang who subjected him to a homophobic assault at knifepoint and carved the word “faggot” into one of his buttocks has now told police that his injuries were consensual.
The apparent attack, which was alleged to have taken place in the central Madrid neighbourhood of Malasaña on Sunday afternoon, shocked Spain and came amid a rise in hate crimes – and just two months after a gay man was beaten to death in the northern city of A Coruña.
The 20-year-old man, who has not been named, initially said that eight masked men had followed him into the hallway of his home and abused him verbally before slashing his lower lip with a knife and cutting the homophobic slur into his buttock.
The incident was condemned by the prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, who convened an urgent meeting of the anti-hate crimes commission on Friday. It also triggered the calling of protests by LGBTI collectives and accusations that the rhetoric of the far-right Vox party had fomented an increasingly anti-LGBTI climate.
On Wednesday afternoon, police and the interior ministry sources said the man had withdrawn his initial claim.
“The man has changed his statement and has said that the assault was consensual,” a Policía Nacional spokeswoman told the Guardian. She added that the man could face legal action for making a false complaint.
The organisers of Wednesday night’s demonstrations in Madrid said the protests would still go ahead, insisting that a single false report should not distract from a rising number of hate crimes.
In a statement, one group, Movimiento Marika Madrid, said protesters would continue to protest against the violence inflicted on LGBTI people – typified by the murder of Samuel Luiz in A Coruña at the beginning of July.
“Over the past few days, there have been attacks in Toledo, in Melilla, in Castellón and in Vitoria,” it said. “[We will protest because] they killed Samuel for being gay and because those of you reading this have also had to suffer violence, harassment, fear and the danger of death.”
On Tuesday, the country’s interior minister, Fernando-Grande Marlaska,said the government was worried about “the rise and the ferocity” of hate crimes and would offer a “forceful response”.
A study published last year by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights found that 41% of those surveyed in Spain had experienced some form of harassment for being LGBTI in the previous 12 months. It also found 32% of respondents in Spain often or always avoided certain places or locations for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed due to being LGBTI.