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Greek militant on hunger strike suffers kidney failure

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Police use a water cannon against protesters who demonstrate in support of Dimitris Koufodinas, a leading member of the armed extreme-left group November 17 who is on hunger strike, on Friday, March 5, 2021. A hospital in central Greece says the far-left militant convicted of 11 murders is in critical condition after suffering kidney failure following 56 days of hunger strike. (John Liakos/InTime News via AP)

ATHENS – A hospital in central Greece said Friday a far-left militant convicted of 11 murders is in critical condition after suffering kidney failure following 56 days of hunger strike.

Dimitris Koufodinas, who is serving 11 life sentences for his role in the November 17 group, began the protest on Jan. 8, arguing that a prison transfer in December occurred in violation of his rights as an inmate.

In central Athens Friday, brief clashes broke out during a protest between police and supporters of Koufodinas' demands. Police detained several demonstrators and used water cannon to disperse a group of protesters who challenged a cordon near parliament.

November 17, which mixed Marxism with nationalism, killed 23 people, including U.S., British and Turkish diplomats, between 1975 and 2000. It was eradicated following a string of arrests in 2002 and subsequent convictions.

Authorities earlier this week increased security at police department buildings and other potential targets, in preparation for possible violent reprisals if Koufodinas dies. Several buildings housing government departments and offices of politicians have already been recently vandalized and targeted in arson attacks by supporters of Koufodinas.

The 63-year-old is being treated in intensive care at a hospital in Lamia, some 215 kilometers (130 miles) north of Athens.

Koufodinas’ personal doctor, Thodoros Sdoukos, said the hunger striker was receiving medicine and limited hydration intravenously.

“We are talking about hours of life remaining. We have reached the ‘zero moment’ that we all hoped to avoid,” Sdoukos told Athens radio station Sto Kokkino.

“I will say it plainly: His life is in imminent danger.”

The government has denied Koufodinas’ request, which was being heard in a renewed petition from his lawyers in a regional court Friday.

Koufodinas’ demands have been backed by near-daily public protests in Athens and other cities, but a recent opinion poll suggests that nearly 70% of Greeks oppose his demand.