A gay rights group in Peru has accused police officers of carrying out systematic attacks on gay people in the country .

The Lima Homosexual Movement claims that figures they have compiled show over 600 homophobic assaults in the country over the last year.

A spokesman for the movement, Jorge Bracamonte, has accused the police of assaulting gay and transvestite prostitutes and other LGBT people.

“The homosexual population is often the object of violence inflicted by police, the same force that supposedly is there to guarantee people’s security,” he said.

Homosexuality is legal in Peru, as is prostitution. The homosexual rights movement in Peru has been slow to take hold.

The Lima Homosexual Movement was founded in 1983 but it was not until 2002 that Peru’s first gay pride parade was held.

The few hundred people that did take part wore masks to hide their identities.

Most countries in South America have a relaxed attitude towards LGBT people, though police harassment and corruption remains a problem across the continent.

In December 2006, Peruvian police finally captured a serial killer thought to be responsible for the deaths over at least 13 people, including homeless people and gay men.

“I’m not a criminal, I’m a social cleanser, I’ve rid society of homosexuals and vagrants,” Pedro Nakada Ludeña told reporters, according to EFE news agency.

He claimed that God had ordered him to purify the earth.