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Brutal Death of Sydney Gay Man Could be Hate Crime

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Thursday October 4, 2012

An Egyptian man, who moved to Australia in order to avoid persecution because he is gay, was stabbed several times on Saturday before his apartment was lit on fire. Police say the murder could be a possible hate crime, The Australian reports.

Ahmed Ghoniem, 27, was born in Egypt but moved to Sydney three years ago to live as an out-gay man and to avoid persecution in his homeland. Currently, Egypt does not recognize any form of same-sex relationships, homosexuality is a taboo in the North African Muslim country, and gay men are routinely rounded up and subjected to severe police brutality.

On Saturday, Sept. 29, Ghoniem was stabbed up to 20 times in his upper body and beaten in the head with a blunt object, police said. The authorities report that the young man's attacker then lit his apartment on fire to cover the attack.

A bystander saw smoke coming from the building's fourth-floor window and contacted emergency crews around 1:30 p.m. Authorities found Ghoniem and rushed him to the hospital. He later died of injuries unrelated to the fire.

Detective Inspector Angelo Memmolo said police are currently investigating the incident and are determining whether the murder was a hate crime or if Ghoniem met the attacker on a gay dating website.

One of his neighbors said there were a lot of "comings and going" from his apartment several times during the day.

"I used to see a lot of people coming in and out of his flat but other than a lot of people, nothing out of the ordinary," the neighbor told the newspaper.

Memmolo said the incident may have been a sudden attack since it occurred during the middle of the day, which is unusual. The detective is also asking the gay community to help police with the investigation.

"We're certainly following those lines of inquiry, looking at his background and appealing for people who may know him to come forward," he told the newspaper.

Ghoniem had become a prominent figure in Sydney's gay community and marched in several of the city's fabled Gay Mardi Gras parades. He also frequented nightclubs and worked as a barman in an inner-city bar. The victim's family told police he moved to Sydney so he could be free and not worry about persecutions in Egypt.

"He was a great friend. We loved him very much and will miss him. He was passionate about his cooking and wanted to become a chef," his cousin, who remained anonymous, said.

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