Business, Economics and Jobs

Greek pensioner kills himself near parliament


People read messages left by passerby near the place where an elderly man shot himself in the head on April 4, 2012 at the central Syntagma Square, in Athens, a focal point of anti-austerity protests. Police said the 77-year-old, whose identity was not revealed, reportedly crying out that he did not want to leave his children in debt.



A 77-year-old Greek pensioner shot and killed himself outside parliament in Athens on Wednesday during rush hour, said Reuters.

The retired pharmacist reportedly left a suicide note likening Greece's current economic crisis to the deep poverty suffered in the country during the German occupation in World War II, said The Wall Street Journal.

The note said, "I have no other way to react apart from finding a dignified end before I start sifting through garbage for food," according to the state-owned Greek television channel NET.

He reportedly shouted "so I won't leave debts for my children" before he shot himself, according to Greek witnesses, said The Telegraph. The square where he shot himself has been the site of numerous violent protests against the tough austerity measures in Greece.

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Costas Lourantos, the president of the pharmacists' union, who met the victim, said, "When dignified people like him are brought to this state, somebody must answer for it. There is a moral instigator to this crime - which is the government that has brought people to such despair," according to Reuters.

Police said they had opened an investigation into the suicide, with one police source saying the man may have had cancer, according to the AFP.

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Government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis told reporters, "This is a human tragedy that must be respected." He added, "The exact circumstances are unknown."

The AFP noted that depression and suicides have increased in Greece during the economic crisis which has seen soaring unemployment rates and plummeting salaries and pensions. A quarter of the workforce is unemployed, according to the AFP.

According to police data, the number of suicides in Greece in 2010 and 2011 surpassed 600 per year, a 20 percent increase over the rate in 2009, the year before the Greek debt crisis, said The Wall Street Journal. The health ministry's numbers are more drastic, showing a jump of 40 percent in the first five months of 2011, compared to the year before.

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