BRUSSELS — David Sassoli, the Italian journalist who worked his way up in politics while defending the downtrodden and repressed to become president of the European Union's parliament, died at a hospital in Italy early Tuesday, his spokesperson said.
EU Council President Charles Michel called Sassoli a "sincere and passionate European. We already miss his human warmth, his generosity, his friendliness and his smile."
No details were provided in a tweet by spokesperson Roberto Cuillo. Sassoli, a 65-year-old socialist, had been hospitalized since Dec. 26 due to abnormal functioning of his immune system, Cuillo said in a statement released the day before Sassoli's death.
Sassoli had been struggling for months with poor health after he suffered pneumonia caused by the legionella bacteria in September. His health steadily declined afterward and he was forced to miss several important legislative meetings. Yet, as much as possible, he stayed on the job, where his vigor and easy smile were a trademark. He was at his strongest when he took up the cause of migrants who died crossing the Mediterranean or dissidents such as Alexei Navalny, who is taking on the Kremlin from a jail cell.