A Spanish man who claimed he was the victim of a homophobic attack in Madrid that sparked widespread outrage has recanted and said he made up the story, according to press reports Wednesday.
The 20-year-old man claimed he was attacked late Sunday by eight hooded men in Malasana, a Madrid neighbourhood popular for its nightlife.
The victim was hospitalized with injuries that included the word "maricon" - slang for "gay" - carved into one of his buttocks.
In a fresh statement to police on Wednesday, the 20-year-old man said there had been no attack and that he had allowed another man to carve the word into his backside, the online edition of the newspaper El Pais reported, citing police.
He claims he lied in order to not lose his current partner.
Reports from RTVE and El Pais indicate he was trying to conceal another sexual relationship.
Madrid police had been unable to verify the alleged victim's story and questioned the 20-year old further, leading to his confession that the incident never happened, according to the media outlets.
The alleged homophobic attack had led Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to promise tougher penalties to prevent hate crime.
Speaking to lawmakers Wednesday, Sanchez said the government would do everything in its power to prevent hate crimes. He called on parliament to move swiftly to pass a bill on equal treatment of minorities that was introduced earlier this year.
Although the Sunday attack turned out not to have transpired, human rights groups point out that organized attacks targeting homosexuals and other minorities have been reported across the country.
There were 43 per cent more hate crimes targeting people for their sexual orientation throughout Spain in the first half of 2021 than in the whole of 2020.