Reports: Suicide victim cites Greek austerity

People lay flowers at the site where an elderly man shot himself at Syntagma square in Athens on April 4, 2012.

Story highlights

  • The man, in his 70s, took his own life in central Athens, near the parliament building
  • He left note saying government actions meant he could not survive, reports say
  • Police in Athens say a gun was found nearby
  • Greece is in the grip of an austerity crisis after years of recession

An elderly man took his own life near the Greek parliament building in central Athens, police said Wednesday, in what was apparently a protest over the austerity crisis gripping the nation.

The man, who was in his mid-70s, wrote in a suicide note that the government had made it impossible for him to survive, according to Greek state TV.

Athanassios Kokkalakis, head of press for the police, said a suicide note had been handed to the press by the man's daughter but did not confirm what it said.

A police spokesman said there were other protesters in the area where the man killed himself at about 9 a.m. local time and a gun was found nearby, a police spokesman said.

Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos expressed his regret in a statement issued by his office.

"It is tragic when a fellow human being takes his own life. In those difficult times for our society we must all -- state and citizens -- support those next to us who stand in despair," he said.

Pantelis Kapsis, a Greek government spokesman, told reporters the man's death was "a human tragedy" but said the exact circumstances were still unknown, according to a government website.

"I don't have any comment and I don't think this story offers anything to the political discussion," Kapsis said.

The nation at the center of Europe's debt crisis, Greece has been struggling with an unsustainable level of debt and an economy that has been in recession for years.

Under its second bailout program, approved earlier this year, Greece has agreed to implement a series of austerity measures and undertake broader reforms to make its economy more competitive.

Those cuts come on top of measures brought in after the first bailout in 2010.

Greece had an unemployment rate of 21% as of December 2011, according to figures from Eurostat, the European Union statistics office.