Calm urged in Greece after protest chaos

2011-05-12 15:11

Athens - The Greek government urged calm on Thursday after a dozen people were hurt, including one seriously, during a protest over its tough austerity measures to deal with the country's debt crisis.

A 31-year-old protester, Yiannis Kafkas, was hospitalised with near-fatal head injuries on Wednesday, during clashes with police on the sidelines of the anti-government demonstration.

"(We) express regret for the grievous injury sustained by this young man," government spokesperson George Petalotis said in a statement. "We must all keep our calm and poise in the difficult conditions our country is going through."

A communist group said Kafkas had been beaten with a truncheon and doctors at Nikaia Hospital where he was treated accused the police of "barbarity". "Violence and repression against those who resist will not endure," the local doctors' union said in a statement.

"Only rarely have I seen such violent blows," Panos Papanikolaou, the neurosurgeon who treated the protester, told Vima Radio.

Another 29-year-old protester was rushed to a second Athens hospital with a burst spleen and an internal haemorrhage, a resident cardiologist told the station.

Demonstration to be scheduled

The latest clashes came as Greece undergoes a critical audit of its finances by experts from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank, which last year rescued the country from imminent bankruptcy with a €110bn loan.

Anti-austerity protests were also held in other Greek cities.

A demonstration against police brutality was scheduled later on Thursday in Athens as police insisted that 15 of their officers had also been hurt in the clashes.

The Socialist government has been facing a growing wave of protests against its economic policies since last year.

Greece needs to show progress on economic reforms initiated last year to earn a scheduled €12bn loan instalment it needs to pay its bills.

But the recession threw its deficit reduction targets off-mark in 2010, and this year it has struggled to keep its finances in balance.

No further aid

European officials have admitted that Athens is likely to need more help to stay abreast of repayments stemming from its huge €340bn debt.

But Germany's finance minister on Thursday said Greece will not receive any further aid from its European partners unless it tightens its belt further and submits to "clear conditions".

If it becomes clear that Greece needs additional assistance, "it must be discussed what further measures are to be undertaken, especially by Greece", Wolfgang Schaeuble said in parliament.

The Greek recession has brought hundreds of thousands of layoffs and an increase in social tension, in addition to casting the country's burgeoning immigrant population in an unwelcome light.

This week, several hundred people including neo-Nazis assaulted dozens of migrants in the working-class district of Patissia near the city centre after a man was killed by muggers for his video camera on Tuesday as he prepared to take his pregnant wife to the maternity hospital.

Early on Thursday, a 21-year-old Bangladeshi was found fatally stabbed in the same area and police did not immediately rule out a reprisal racist attack.