Marco Pannella, 82, stopped eating and drinking as a means to protest overcrowding in prisons and to allow prisoners the right to vote. Doctors said the lack of water and food had brought Pannella to the brink of renal failure and he allowed them to begin intravenous rehydration therapy, a mix of sugar and water doctors hope will allow his kidneys to return to normal function, ANSA news agency reported Wednesday.
Pannella said he hoped the strike didn't invoke sympathy for him, but the thousands of Italians in "an illegal situation in prison," he said.
"It's not a question of pity, but of justice," Pannella said.
Italian Justice Minister Paola Severino praised Pannella's courage.
"We need Marco Pannella alive and the strong ideals he has fought for all his life," Severino told Italian radio. "I'd like to combat by his side, albeit with different means. ... We have a common aim -- to make prisons a humane place so that making people serve their punishment does not mean taking away their dignity and hope."