Maverick Italian politician Marco Pannella dies

Marco Pannella, the maverick radical politician who was crucial to Italian post-war campaigns to legalise abortion and other social change, has died aged 86.

Radio Radicale, the radio station of Mr Pannella’s Radical Party, announced the death yesterday.

Pannella, who was known for his frequent hunger strikes, anti-church positions and sit-ins, had been in hospital at a Rome clinic in recent days.

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi described the veteran politician as a “lion of freedom”. Pannella was one of the founders of Italy’s Radical Party in the 1950s.

As a member of parliament and outside agitator over the ensuing decades, he was crucial to pushing the overwhelmingly Catholic Italy to legalise divorce and abortion.

On the international stage, the cigar-smoking activist was also friends with the Dalai Lama and a fan of Martin Luther King Jr.

Despite his anti-clerical rhetoric, he found common cause with the Vatican on efforts to end world hunger.

Pannella, who served several stints as a European parliamentarian, had been diagnosed in recent years with tumours in his lung and liver, and had frequent hospital stays due to his hunger strikes.


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