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Greek Pensioner's Suicide Triggers Fresh Anti-Govt. Protests

The suicide of an old-aged man outside the Greek Parliament in protest against the government cutting his pension has triggered fresh rounds of demonstration in capital Athens, with protesters clashing with riot police.

A 77-year-old retired chemist on Wednesday shot himself dead in the middle of Athens' central Syntagma Square, which has become the focal point of frequent public protests against drastic austerity measures imposed by the government in response to the country's debt crisis.

The man who ended his life was identified as Dimitris Christoulas, who is survived by his wife and a daughter. His suicide note ends in a solemn call to "take up arms and hang the traitors of this country."

"The Tsolakoglou government has annihilated all traces for my survival, which was based on a very dignified pension that I alone paid for 35 years with no help from the State. And since my advanced age does not allow me a way of dynamically reacting, I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life," says the note the Greek media released.

Dozens of people offered flowers and pinned written messages to the tree under which Christoulas had shot himself, some reading "it was a murder, not a suicide" and "austerity kills."

Later, hundreds of protesters marched toward the Parliament and the adjacent Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, chanting "this was not a suicide, it was a state-perpetrated murder." They threw rocks and petrol bombs at police, who responded with tear gas and flash grenades.

Suicides are increasing in Greece as more and more people are depressed by the State-enforced cut to regular income sources as a result of tough austerity measures, reports say.

The Socialist government was forced to turn to the European Union and the International Monetary Fund for a huge Eurozone financial bailout needed to save the country from bankruptcy.

Athens agreed to cut thousands of civil service jobs, salaries, benefits and pensions, and increase taxes, in return for the bailout fund.

Interim Prime Minister Lucas Papademos condoled the old man's death, and said "we must all, the State and the citizens, support the people among us who are desperate in these difficult hours for our society."

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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