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Italy mourning the veteran politician Marco Pannella

How the world remembers this "courageous lion of freedom"

Italy mourning the veteran politician Marco Pannella

Claudia Astarita

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The whole country is mourning the loss of one of its most courageous, if not the most courageous, politician, Marco Pannella, who died after struggling for many years with lung and liver tumours. This tireless civil rights campaigner was known all over the world for his freedom campaigns, and indeed international media have all dedicated at least a couple of words to remember him and his battles.

"Pannella was a founder of Italy's Radical party in 1955 and rose to fame as the movement's leader in the 1960s and 1970s", remembers the Guardian, and "he promoted dozens of referendums on subjects including abortion, divorce, the legalisation of cannabis, the abolition of life imprisonment and hunting. He was also at the forefront of successful campaigns such as the end of pure proportional representation in elections in the early 1990s and the abolition of nuclear energy production in Italy in 2011".

"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 anticlerical rhetoric, he found common cause with the Vatican on efforts to end world hunger", adds the Wall Street Journal. However, as the Guardian states, "Pannella's international profile jumped [also] when he recruited porn actor Ilona Staller (known by her stage name of Cicciolina) into the Radical party in the 1980s and she was then successfully elected to parliament in 1987".

Mr Pannella adopted a very unconventional way of protesting, that "constantly kept him in the limelight and he staged many hunger strikes, including one in 2011, at the age of 81, that lasted three months to protest against prison overcrowding", says Reuters , highlighting also that "during his long political career, Pannella formed alliances on the left and right, a versatility hailed as 'post-ideological' by his supporters but which his detractors considered a sign of cynicism and opportunism".

Today, the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has decided to remember his as a great political leader, "who left his mark on this country's history with his sometimes controversial but always courageous battles".

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