Ex-minister hurt in Greek clashes amid anti-austerity strike

A Greek ex-minister was hurt and riot police clashed with scores of protesters as violence broke out on the sidelines of an Athens demonstration against government new austerity measures.

Updated: Dec 16, 2010, 00:39 AM IST

Athens: A Greek ex-minister was hurt on Wednesday
and riot police clashed with scores of protesters as violence
broke out on the sidelines of an Athens demonstration against
government new austerity measures.

As hooded youths torched garbage bins and threw broken
masonry at police outside parliament and on central streets, a
throng of protesters assaulted former conservative minister
Costis Hatzidakis, a news agency staff said.

Photo footage showed Hatzidakis bleeding from the top of
his head and nose after being cornered outside a department
store by around a dozen people, some of whom were punching
him.

"I am fine," Hatzidakis said shortly after the
incident.

"The photos make it look more serious than it really
was. I received a cut near my eye and my nose was bleeding,"
said the 45-year-old conservative lawmaker who insisted there
was no need to go to hospital.

Some 20,000 people participated in the Athens protest
under a general strike called by the General Confederation of
Greek Workers (GSEE) and the main union of civil servants
ADEDY, and supported by leftist parties and organisations.

A similar number joined another protest in the northern
city of Thessaloniki earlier in the day that also resulted in
violence when youths threw firebombs at a central government
building and vandalised several banks and stores.

At least three people were hurt and around 20 were
detained by police during the northern city demonstration that
drew some 20,000 protesters.

In Athens, protesters also set cars on fire outside a
trio of luxury hotels on central Syntagma Square and tried to
block streets with garbage bins.

Red paint was splashed on the nearby entrance of the
Bank of Greece and boarded-up shops on central Stadiou Street
were covered in black graffiti.

"Let`s not live as slaves," read one while another
called for a "popular uprising."

The protest was held hours after parliament approved a
bill slashing pay in the country`s poorly managed public
utilities, just months after civil servants in the broader
public sector had also had their wages and pensions cut.

The austerity cuts are mandated by the European Union
and the International Monetary Fund after they extended a
110-billion-euro loan in May that rescued Greece from
bankruptcy.

Other protests against austerity measures were expected
today in other European capitals.

The general strike was the seventh this year against the
austerity drive.

PTI