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Greek pensioner commits suicide in Syntagma square

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A 77-year old Greek man took his life in Athens central Syntagma Square early Wednesday, police said, shooting himself with a handgun just several hundred meters from the entrance to the Greek parliament building in apparent despair over his financial debts.

According to Dow Jones Newswires, his identity has not been released pending notice to next of kin and police are now investigating if the man has left behind any suicide note.

But according to eyewitness accounts, the man shouted "so I wont leave debts for my children" before killing himself.

"This was a symbolic suicide. If it hadnt happened here, in the square, in front of parliament, no one would notice," said one bystander, who declined to give his name but who heard the shots from across the square.

Greece is now in its fifth year of a grinding economic recession made worse by successive waves of austerity measures the country has taken to meet the demands of its international creditors from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Those various austerity measures have led to steep cuts, in some cases more than 25%, in retiree pensions and other benefits. At the same time many Greeks are being squeezed by declining wages and higher taxes on everything from property to petrol.

The social impact of the economic crisis has become increasingly apparent on the streets of Athens and other cities, while suicide rates have jumped. In one notable case last September, a Greek man in his 50s who was struggling with his debts attempted suicide in front of a bank branch in the northern city of Thessaloniki by setting himself on fire.
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