Two badly injured in protest rally

A 31-year-old man was in critical condition in an Athens hospital on Thursday after suffering serious injuries during anti-austerity rally in the capital on Wednesday that was largely peaceful but marred by isolated outbreaks of violence.

A surgeon at the Nikaia General Hospital where the 31-year-old underwent an operation on Wednesday told Skai that it was ?a miracle? that the man was still alive.

Panayiotis Papanikolaou said that dozens of demonstrators had visited hospitals across the capital for treatment to injuries sustained during the rally and pointed to an unjustified use of police force.

A statement issued by police on Thursday said that three officers had been suspended for allegedly using excessive violence against a demonstrator. The three officers’ supervisor has been suspended too, pending an investigation, the statement added.

Commenting on Thursday, Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis expressed his hope that the 31-year-old would make a full recovery. ?I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that this young person will recover and will be able to participate in many other demonstrations in the future,? Kastanidis told Skai.

The incident fueled tensions in Parliament on Thursday. Panayiotis Lafazanis of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) accused riot police officers of «carrying out vicious attacks on unarmed demonstrators with the aim of killing them.» Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis emphasized the need for «coolheadedness and self-control.”

Meanwhile reports surfaced that another demonstrator, a 29-year-old man, was also receiving treatment for serious injuries at the capital?s Evangelismos Hospital.

The serious injuries of the two demonstrators marred an otherwise peaceful demonstration on Wednesday that was modest by Greek standards, drawing a turnout of 20,000 people, according to police. Labor unions, who organized the rallies to protest the government?s ongoing austerity drive, put the number closer to 40,000.

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