Police, demonstrators clash at Athens rail tragedy protest

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Riot police in Athens on Thursday clashed with protesters during a demonstration to express outrage over last month’s train tragedy that killed 57 people, AFP reporters said.

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Television footage showed the clash broke out at the Greek capital’s central Syntagma Square near parliament, as a demonstration of some 25,000 people passed by.

Police fired tear gas and stun grenades as demonstrators tried to surround them, hurling firebombs and rocks.

As the demonstrators retreated, they smashed traffic lights and shop windows and set garbage bins on fire, AFP reporters saw.

Police said more than 40,000 protested nationwide on Thursday, including around 8,500 in each of the country’s next largest cities, Thessaloniki and Patras, where another brief clash occurred.

The February 28 tragedy exposed decades of safety failings in Greek railways and has put major pressure on the conservative government ahead of national elections.

The rail disaster occurred shortly before midnight when a passenger train crashed head-on into a freight train in central Greece after both were mistakenly left running on the same track.

A stationmaster and three other railway officials have been charged, but public anger has focused on long-running mismanagement of the network and the country has been rocked by a series of sometimes violent mass protests.

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