Czech leader Vaclav Havel dead at age 75


Former Czech President Vaclav Havel speaks during the presentation of the project of the Vaclav Havel Library on March 1, 2011 in Prague. Havel died aged 75 on December 18, 2011, his office said.



Vaclav Havel, the anti-Communist dissident and playwright who became the Czech Republic's first president, has died at the age of 75.

Havel died Sunday morning, according to Czech media reports. He had long suffered from poor health.

His secretary Sabina Dancecova told the Associated Press that Havel died at his weekend house in the north of the country. 

Havel was a poet, playwright and essayist who became the last president of Czechoslovakia, and then the Czech Republic's first president, overseeing the country's transition to democracy and a free-market economy.

Havel also oversaw Czechoslovakia's 1993 split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the BBC said.

He spent four and a half years in prison for his anti-Communist activism before becoming a leader of the non-violent Velvet Revolution in 1989.

More from GlobalPost: Vaclav Havel's human rights film festival

CNN reported

A deeply serious thinker given to long, rambling statements in presidential speeches and conversation, Havel also had an impish sense of humor, reportedly whizzing through the long corridors of Prague Castle on a scooter after becoming president. It was his love of rock and roll as much as his moral outrage at the Communist system that brought him to prominence.

Havel, who was nominated several times for a Nobel Peace Prize, left office in 2003.

The AP said:

Even out of office, the diminutive Czech remained a world figure. He was part of the "new Europe" ... of ex-communist countries that stood up for the US when the democracies of "old Europe" opposed the 2003 Iraq invasion.