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Rediff.com  » News » Former Czech president Vaclav Havel dies at 75

Former Czech president Vaclav Havel dies at 75

December 18, 2011 18:07 IST
Former Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel, one of the leading anti-Communist dissidents of the 1970s and 1980s, died at the age of 75, Czech Television announced on Sunday.

The former dissident playwright, who suffered from prolonged ill health, died Sunday morning at his weekend house in the northern Czech Republic, his assistant Sabina Dancecova said.

A former chain-smoker, Havel had a history of chronic respiratory problems dating back to his years in communist jails. He was hospitalised in Prague in January 2009, with an unspecified inflammation, and had developed breathing difficulties after undergoing minor throat surgery.

Havel, a puckish, absurdist playwright turned political activist, spent four and a half years in prison for opposing Czechslovakia's Communist government before emerging as a leader of the Velvet Revolution that swept it aside in 1989, the CNN reports.

He was the country's first democratically elected president after the nonviolent "Velvet Revolution" that ended four decades of repression by a regime he ridiculed as "Absurdistan." He left office in 2003, 10 years after Czechoslovakia broke up and just months before both nations joined the European Union.

Havel first came to international fame as a dissident playwright in the 1970s through his involvement with the human rights manifesto Charter 77.

More details awaited.