Protester?s death casts pall over rally

Three mostly peaceful rallies held in central Athens on Thursday to protest a new austerity package being hammered out by the government and the troika were overshadowed by the death of a 65-year-old demonstrator who suffered a heart attack shortly after scuffles broke out between riot police and protesters.

The man, reportedly an unemployed dockworker, was rushed to the capital?s Evangelismos Hospital at around 2 p.m. after fainting amid a crowd of protesters. He was pronounced dead after ?unsuccessful attempts to give him cardiac resuscitation,? according to a statement issued by the hospital?s director. His death came almost exactly a year after that of a 53-year-old construction worker who died of a heart attack during a protest rally as MPs voted a package of austerity measures through Parliament.

It remained unclear whether the 65-year-old?s heart failure was provoked by tear gas, as reports had suggested. Police had started firing tear gas to disperse demonstrators shortly after 1 p.m. after self-styled anarchists broke off from the crowd and started throwing Molotov cocktails and stones at the officers.

A police spokesman put the turnout at 40,000 while unions claimed that more than 80,000 people were in attendance. Smaller demonstrations were held in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, in the western port of Patra and elsewhere. Police in Athens detained 103 demonstrators, arrested seven on various charges, and said three officers had sustained minor injuries. Six demonstrators were injured but none with life-threatening injuries, according to media reports.

As part of a preventive crackdown on Wednesday night, police found a bag containing nine Molotov cocktails that had been hidden close to the National Archaeological Museum.