Labour deputy leadership candidate, Northern Ireland Secretary and former Europe Minister Peter Hain has expressed to PinkNews.co.uk his grave concern about the treatment of gay rights protesters in Moscow.

Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell was violently attacked by anti-gay protesters in Moscow. Right Said Fred singer Richard Fairbrass was also punched in the face while giving a TV interview. Both were there to support today’s banned gay rights march in the city. Mr Tatchell was later arrested.

Over the social networking website (where Mr Hain hosts a campaign profile), the Cabinet minister told PinkNews.co.uk: “In a free and democratic society, all citizens have a right to protest free from harassment by the authorities.

“I hope that the EU will be making urgent representations to the to Russian authorities, asking them to justify their treatment of the protesters and to explain why they did not do more to protect the protesters from violence.”

Mr Hain also expressed concern about a number of other homophobic incidents throughout Eastern Europe: “This incident is the latest of a number of very worrying developments for lesbian and gay people, not just in Russia, but throughout Eastern Europe. The promotion of equality and human rights is a cornerstone of the European Union, and I therefore hope the EU will take a lead in making clear that discrimination and harassment of lesbian and gay people is completely unacceptable and has absolutely no place in modern Europe or beyond.”

PinkNews.co.uk has so far only received a holding statement from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office saying: “We take seriously the issue of gay rights abroad and any mistreatment of British nationals abroad.”

A Foreign Office official said unless they hear from Peter Tatchell, they can not make formal representations. He dismissed the suggestion from PinkNews.co.uk that the fact the incident was broadcast across all news programmes (including the lead story on Channel Four News) yesterday would be a strong indication that British citizens were involved.

We welcome a statement from either the current Europe Minister, Geoff Hoon or the Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett.