A former political prisoner in Albania who was seeking speedier government compensation has died three weeks after he set himself on fire during a hunger strike, activists say.

Lirak Bejko, 47, died during an operation Friday in a hospital in Bari, Italy, where he had been taken for specialist treatment. Protest organizer Skender Tufa said Bejko had burns covering about half his body.

The hunger strike in Tirana, the Albanian capital, ended after a month because of the 21 participants' weakened condition.

Protesters were pressing Albania's government to honor pledges to compensate victims of the Communist regime that ruled with an iron fist from 1944 to 1990. About 100,000 Albanians were executed, imprisoned or sent to labor camps by the Communists.

The government says it has started making the payments.