Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Greeks Stunned by a Retiree's Suicide

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Greeks Stunned by a Retiree's Suicide

Article excerpt

The incident has prompted a public outpouring, with passers-by pinning notes of sympathy and protest to trees in the square, as well as comment from politicians across the spectrum.

The death of a 77-year-old Greek pensioner who shot himself in the head outside Parliament in despair over his financial problems has shaken this austerity-weary country and a crumbling political system struggling to assert its relevance amid an economic and social meltdown.

Dimitris Christoulas, a divorced and retired pharmacist, took his life on Wednesday in Syntagma Square, a focal point for frequent public demonstrations and protests, as hundreds of commuters passed nearby at a metro station and as lawmakers in Parliament debated last-minute budget amendments before elections, expected on May 6.

In a handwritten note found near the scene, the pensioner said he could not face the prospect "of scavenging through garbage bins for food and becoming a burden to my child," blaming the government's austerity policies for his decision.

The incident has prompted a public outpouring, with passers-by pinning notes of sympathy and protest to trees in the square, as well as comment from politicians across the spectrum. A solidarity rally on Wednesday night turned violent when the police clashed with hooded demonstrators in scuffles that left at least three people injured.

On Thursday, before the start of another rally, shocked Athenians visited the site of the shooting. Some expressed sadness at the desperation of a fellow citizen, but also anger.

"It's not just heart-wrenching, it's outrageous," said Haris Anastasiadis, a 48-year-old plumber, pointing to the Parliament building. "It's those in there that killed him, and they're killing us all."

The sentiment echoed many of the notes pinned to the tree, which Mr. Christoulas leaned against before he pulled the trigger, according to witnesses. …

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