MOSCOW (AFP) - A Russian court on Monday handed down long jail sentences to three men who stabbed and kicked a man they believed to be gay and then set him on fire.
The men, all from the same village in the region of Kamchatka in far eastern Russia, committed the murder last May because they were "convinced of the non-traditional sexual orientation of their fellow villager", regional prosecutors said in a statement, using a euphemism for being gay.
"Taking into account the role of each, the court sentenced them to 121/2 years, 101/2 years and nine years in a strict-regime prison colony," prosecutors said.
The men "lured the man in his car to a deserted part of the forest. There, the eldest man stabbed the victim multiple times in the chest, face and neck, and two others kicked him". Finally they placed the 29-year-old victim in his car and set the vehicle alight using petrol, prosecutors said.
The men who committed the murder are now aged 26, 22 and 18, with the youngest still a minor at the time of the crime.
It was highly unusual for prosecutors to state publicly that the motive was homophobia. However the men were prosecuted for murder, not for a hate crime, a classification that is rarely used.
In a hugely controversial move decried by gay activists and the West, Russia imposed sanctions for the promotion of "gay propaganda" to minors.
Activists say the measure has helped inflame anti-gay sentiment in the country. President Vladimir Putin has denied that gays and lesbians face discrimination.
In the southern Russian city of Volgograd, a man last year was tortured to death for saying he was gay.