Dana Nemcova, leading Czech anti-communist, dies aged 89

PRAGUE (AP) – Dana Nemcova, one of the leading Czech dissidents and human rights activists from the communist era, has died. She was 89.

She died on Tuesday morning, according to the Olga Havel Foundation, a non-profit organization to which she was associated for many years. Information on the cause of death was not given.

Born on January 14, 1934, Nemcova was one of the first people to sign Charter 77, a human rights manifesto inspired by Vaclav Havel, a fellow dissident who later became president. Nemcova herself became one of the spokespersons for the charter.

The document was a rare expression of opposition to the hard-line communist regime that took power after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, which crushed the liberal reform period known as the Prague Spring.

The charter united opponents of the regime, including religious activists, ex-communists who were expelled from the party after the 1968 invasion, and rock musicians, intellectuals and democrats from before World War II.

Political cartoons about world leaders

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Its signatories defied the regime’s persecution and exercised what Havel called “the power of the powerless.”

Among them was Nemcova, a mother of seven and a psychologist by profession.

In 1979, she spent six months in prison before being sentenced to two years’ probation for undermining the republic. She was forbidden to practice as a psychologist and only allowed to do menial jobs like cleaning.

Nemcova and her husband Jiri Nemec turned their Prague apartment into one of the centers of anti-communist resistance, but faced repeated interrogations and raids.

She once said that signing the charter was a way for her to “maintain identity and dignity”.

Nemcova also co-founded the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted, which supported those facing state oppression, from police harassment to unjust prosecutions.

After the 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution led by Havel, Nemcova was a member of the Czechoslovak Parliament until 1992. She later chaired the board of the Olga Havel Foundation, founded by Havel’s first wife and focused on helping disabled and abandoned people. as well as those who are discriminated against.

In the 1990s she set up an information center for refugees and a migration center and worked in particular with refugees from the former Yugoslavia.

In 1998 she received a state award from President Havel at the time.

“Dana Nemcova was an extraordinary person, courageous and deeply human, who made a significant contribution to our freedom and democracy with her persistent and consistent defense of human rights,” said Prime Minister Petr Fiala.

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Brian Ashcraft

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