Mourners carry a casket during funeral services for Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salh in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/The News & Observer/Corey Lowenstein)
Mourners carry a casket during funeral services for Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salh in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/The News & Observer/Corey Lowenstein)
Mourners carry a casket during funeral services for Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salh in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/The News & Observer/Corey Lowenstein)

(BBC) – The FBI is investigating whether the fatal shooting of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was a hate crime. What is the definition of this offence and how do you prove it, asks Rajini Vaidyanathan.

“This has hate crime written all over it,” said Mohammad Abu Salha, as he delivered a moving address at the funeral of his two daughters, Yusor and Razan Abu Salha, and his son-in-law, Deah Barakat.

Police say the three students were gunned down by their neighbour, Craig Stephen Hicks. An initial investigation indicated Hicks was motivated by an ongoing dispute over parking, and his wife Karen maintains the attacks were not religiously motivated.

The FBI defines a hate crime as one with an added element of bias against a person’s race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. The agency says: “Hate itself is not a crime – and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.”

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