MADRID (Reuters) - Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will chair on Friday an urgent meeting of Spain's commission against hate crimes amid an uproar over a suspected homophobic assault on a 20-year-old Spaniard in central Madrid.
The young man was returning home on Sunday afternoon when eight people wearing hoods managed to surround him in his building's hallway and verbally abused him while threatening him with a knife, a police source said.
The attackers carved a homophobic slur with a knife on his buttocks. He also suffered a cut in his lower lip, the source added.
"Hate crimes must receive the highest social and political condemnation," government spokesperson Isabel Rodriguez said on Tuesday, adding Sanchez will hold the meeting later in the week.
Homophobic attacks have been brought to the spotlight in Spain in the past few weeks after a man was beaten to death in July in the northwestern region of Galicia allegedly because of his sexual orientation, causing mass protests across the country.
Rodriguez asked parliament to accelerate a new bill on equal treatment and non-discrimination, which she said would address this kind of violence.
Police said they were reviewing surveillance cameras set near the young man's home, searching for leads and witnesses to Sunday's assault, but the investigation was just starting.
LGBT groups have called a protest in Madrid next Saturday against "a wave of attacks on LGBT people". Madrid's lesbian, gay, transsexual and bisexual collective asked for political action after the assault, which they labelled "savage".
Spain has been a pioneer in rights for the LGBT community, allowing same-sex marriages since 2005. A recent survey of eight Western countries by British pollster YouGov found Spain had the highest proportion of people who identified as LGBT.
It found that 91% of Spaniards would be supportive if a family member came out as lesbian, gay or bisexual, compared with just 66% in the United States and 57% in France.
(Reporting by Emma Pinedo with additional reporting by Nathan Allen, editing by Inti Landauro and Mark Heinrich)