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Czechs and the world say farewell to Vaclav Havel

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Czechs and the world say farewell to Vaclav Havel


World leaders have been in Prague for the funeral of Vaclav Havel, the man who led Czechoslovakia from Stalinism to democracy.

The Clintons from the US, Sarkozy and Cameron from France and Britain, Buzak and Barroso from the EU all turned out at St Vitus Cathedral to remember the leader of 1989’s peaceful Velvet Revolution.

Havel died on Sunday after a long respiratory illness. He was 75.

He was a playwright who infuriated the communist regime with his depictions of oppression in the country throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s and his works were banned.

His stubborn opposition earned him a five year jail term, and constant surveillance by the secret police when he was not behind bars.

But by the end of 1989, the communist regime was gone, and he was the first president of what was then a democratic Czechoslovakia.

Thousands observed a minute’s silence, then watched the funeral on giant screens outside. Some factories stopped work.

Leaders from other eastern European countries that broke away from totalitarian rule were there too.

The Czech president Vaclav Klaus read a eulogy to the man who had preceded him.

And the Pope sent a letter paying tribute to Havel’s courageous defence of human rights and visionary leadership.

His coffin left to the sound of the cathedral bells heading for a private family cremation.

And the Czech people applauded.

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