Czech revolution icon dies at 75
Former Czech president and hero of the Velvet Revolution Vaclav Havel, who steered his country to independence from Soviet rule in 1989, died yesterday at the age of 75, his office said.
Havel died in his sleep at dawn after a lengthy illness, his secretary Sabina Tancevova said.
Havel, president of Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992 and of the successor Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003, had long battled poor health, partly caused by the five years he spent in communist jails.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas paid tribute to Havel.
Havel was born in Prague on October 5, 1936 into a wealthy family which lost its assets as the communists took power in 1948.
He established himself as a leading figure on the scene of the Czechoslovak theatre of the absurd in the 1960s, before being banned from theatres after the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
He was responsible for drawing up Charter 77, a 1977 manifesto challenging the communists to live up to their international promises to respect human rights, and he kept fighting the regime which earned him five years in prison.