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Anti-racism protesters rally in Athens after stabbing

posted 20 Jan 2013, 04:45 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 20 Jan 2013, 04:46 ]

Hundreds take to the streets of Athens in protest against racist attacks in the country.

 ATHENSGREECE (JANUARY 19 2013)(REUTERS) -  Hundreds of demonstrators on Saturday (January 19) paraded the coffin in central Athens of a Pakistani immigrant who was stabbed to death earlier this week, praying and opening the casket to show his face in protest at racist attacks in the country.

About 5,000 immigrants and human rights activists later gathered in the city's centralOmonia square, police said, to demonstrate against racism, holding banners reading"Neo-Nazis out" and "Punishment for the fascist murderers of Shehzad Luqman".

The 27-year-old Pakistani was stabbed to death by two men on a motorcycle as he rode his bicycle to work in an Athens suburb in the early hours of Wednesday, in an attack police say may have been racially motivated.

Greece is a gateway for mostly Asian and African migrants trying to enter the European Union through its porous sea and land borders each year. They face rising hostility during the country's worst economic downturn in six decades.

"We were afraid. But now we have anger. We are humanity, we are demanding why somebody is not going to give attention. We are workers, we are not here to make war or something fights," Javied Aslam, head of the Pakistani community organisation told Reuters, as about 300 Pakistani immigrants gathered outside city hall with the coffin.

A police official told Reuters earlier this week a 25-year-old and a 29-year-old firefighter had admitted to stabbing Luqman in the chest following a drunken argument.

Police discovered dozens of pamphlets of the ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn party in the home of one of the attackers.

Golden Dawn, which says it wants to rid Greece of illegal immigrants, won 7 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections last June, entering the assembly for the first time on its fiercely anti-immigrant agenda.

Recent opinion polls show it ranks third among Greek political parties, with support at 10.7 to 12 percent.

"I'm always afraid each and every day. Each and every day I have to pray, I have to send my prayer to God to protect me each and every day. Because each and every day you can meet the racist guy everywhere. That's the problem, the main problem here," said the 30-year-old Richard, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo

Sasha Simic, who travelled from the United Kingdom, said it was important to stop the seeds of fascism from sprouting.

"We are here to unite with our brothers and sisters in Greece, whether they're white, whether they black, to say fascism threatens everybody, we must strive to stop the seeds of fascism," said 52-year-old Simic.

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, says racist attacks have risen to alarming levels during the crisis, which has made more than one in four Greeks unemployed and eroded living standards, with authorities doing little to tackle the problem.

Rights groups say most victims are attacked in public spaces such as squares or on public transport, usually by groups of men dressed in black and at times with their faces covered.

Amnesty International said Luqman's killing was not an isolated incident but showed a "continuing failure" of the Greek authorities to take action to put an end to racist violence.