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Protests turn violent over suicide

Police in Athens clashed with demonstrators for a second day at the site where an elderly man shot himself dead leaving a note blaming the country's harsh austerity measures for his suicide.

About 1,000 people gathered in the main Syntagma Square to leave flowers, candles and messages for retired pharmacist Dimitris Christoulas.

But dozens of youths dressed in hoods and crash helmets smashed paving stones with hammers and threw the rubble at riot police.

The protesters chanted "Killers! Killers!" as police responded with tear gas and flash grenades during the clashes, which lasted about 20 minutes.

Mr Christoulas, 77, shot himself in the head in Syntagma Square next to parliament - rekindling anti-austerity protests that have frequently turned violent over the past two years.

The suicide occurred during morning rush hour, and the tree under which he died was quickly covered with Greek flags and notes blaming government-imposed austerity for his death.

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

"It was clearly a political act," said Petros Constantinou, organiser for the left-wing Antarsya group, which participated in the protests. "The fact that a person reached the point of giving his life to change the situation shows ... where the policies of austerity and poverty have brought people."

"This is not just desperation. Someone has given his life to stop these policies," Constantinou said. "I think it was a wake-up call, that things cannot continue this way, and he wanted people to rise up."

Neighbours and acquaintances said Mr Christoulas was politically active, joining a string of anti-austerity protests at Syntagma Square last year, but did not appear to have debts or visible financial problems.

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