In this Saturday, Oct. 22, 2005 file photo, Marco Pannella, leader of Italian Radical Party, delivers his address at the Nuovo PSI new Italian Socialist Party congress in Rome. Marco Pannella, the maverick radical politician who was crucial to Italian post-war campaigns to legalize abortion and other social change, has died Thursday, May 19, 2006. He was 86. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito, File)
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Marco Pannella May 2, 1930 - May 19, 2016

Marco Pannella, maverick in Italian postwar politics, dies

Originally published by Associated Press on May 19, 2016

ROME — Marco Pannella, a maverick radical politician who was crucial to Italian postwar campaigns to legalize abortion, divorce and other social change, died Thursday. He was 86.

His death was announced by Radio Radicale, the radio station of Pannella's political party. Pannella, who was known for his hunger strikes, sit-ins, and recourse to political referenda to push his liberal, oftentimes anti-church agenda, had been hospitalized at a Rome clinic in recent days.

Premier Matteo Renzi eulogized the grizzled veteran politician as a "lion of freedom," and tributes poured in from across Italy's political spectrum.

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 legalize divorce and abortion.

On the international stage, the cigar-chomping activist was also a known peacenik, 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 tumors in his lung and liver, and had frequent hospital stays due to his hunger strikes.

The Associated Press

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