Page last updated at 11:10 GMT, Friday, 7 August 2009 12:10 UK

Polish woman fined for gay abuse

By Adam Easton
BBC News, Warsaw


A Polish court has banned a woman from publicly using derogatory terms like "queer" or "fag" to describe her young gay neighbour.

A judge in north-west Poland ruled the 44-year-old woman had infringed Ryszard Giersz's dignity by repeatedly verbally abusing him in public.

The woman, identified in court as Anna S, was also ordered to pay Mr Giersz damages of 15,000 zloty (£3,100).

Polish gay rights groups have hailed the case as unprecedented.

An emotional Mr Giersz said he was very happy with Tuesday's verdict, adding that he may use the damages payment to buy a bigger flat away from his neighbour.

"I'm a normal person and I just want to live with my partner in peace," he told journalists after the court hearing. "The last six months have completely knocked us out."

Ms S, who can still appeal against the verdict, maintained her innocence throughout the proceedings, saying that she was, in fact, the victim.

"All the witnesses lied," she was quoted as saying by the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza. "This man offended me. He threw things at me from his window. I'm depressed because of this and need treatment."

Unprecedented case

Prosecutors said Mr Giersz had endured an "avalanche of hatred" in the small town of Wolin, after his neighbour began calling him a "pedal" - which translates as "fag" or "queer" - in front of others.

[The case] might be a kind of a symbol for Polish society for a change and I hope it will change people's attitudes towards us
Robert Biedron
Campaign against Homophobia

According to the charge sheet, Ms S repeatedly verbally abused Mr Giersz and his partner, Tomasz.

When the couple were out walking, people would call them names and even throw tomatoes and stones at them.

Mr Giersz eventually had to change his job and, when the 25-year-old took the case to court, he was warned by one man that should he win, he would be killed.

The case was the first time a gay man or woman had so openly pursued his or her rights in a Polish court, said Robert Biedron from the Polish rights group Campaign Against Homophobia, which helped Mr Giersz find legal assistance and supported him through the trial.

"It's a case which shows the Polish people that gays and lesbians have dignity, should be treated equally," Mr Biedron told the BBC.

"It might be a kind of a symbol for Polish society for a change and I hope it will change people's attitudes towards us."

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