NEWS

New anti-austerity protest to be held

Anti-austerity activists are planning new protests Thursday in Athens’s main square the day after a retiree publicly killed himself, leaving a note that blasted politicians over the country’s financial crisis.

Many in the debt-crippled country see the 77-year-old retired pharmacist as a martyr, whose suicide symbolized the cumulative effect of over two years of economic pain imposed to secure international bailouts shielding the country from bankruptcy.

Some 2,000 people gathered at Syntagma Square hours after the suicide Wednesday, chanting «this was no suicide, it was a state-perpetrated murder,» and clashing with riot police.

The retiree chose the morning rush hour to shoot himself in the head near a subway exit on the square ? a focal point for protests and a stone’s throw from Parliament. The tree under which he died was quickly festooned with notes blaming government-imposed austerity for his death.

Dozens gathered on the spot Thursday, leaving flowers, Greek flags and candles on the grass.

In a suicide note published by local media, the man said could he not survive on his pension and expected Greeks to take up arms and «hang traitors» in the square.

Suicides are on the rise in austerity-crippled Greece, although accurate figures are hard to access as not all are reported.

Police have recorded more than 1,700 such suicides and attempts since 2009, while the Health Ministry said suicides jumped 40 percent in the first five months of 2011 over the same period in 2010, with analysts linking the surge to the pressures of economic hardship.

Groups ranging from social media activists to schoolchildren have said they will join in the protests on Thursday evening. [AP]