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Václav Havel – A legend or yet another false myth?

22nd anniversary of amnesty of the President of CSSR from January 1, 1990.

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I did not want to comment on the death of Vaclav Havel at the time of his funeral and if it was not for a certain redactor from daily SME who wanted to know details on the circumstances of Havel’s amnesty from January 1, 1990, when I was serving my sentence in Leopoldov in the department Section I for so-called crimes against the Republic, I would find it unnecessary to comment on his character in relation to the amnesty and takeover in 1989.
To the concerned redactor who with my consent recorded the interview I told the same what I am saying here in more detail and with authentic documents. As expected, certain circles made a legend of Havel already at time when he was still alive, and his death was used for the same purpose; and therefore I was not surprised that in the article “Consequences of Havel’s amnesty cannot be ascertained for sure” daily SME did not mention a word from what I told them in the interview.

What is the real truth about Havel’s amnesty?

As of January 1, 1990, several tens of prisoners sentenced by Section I. were serving their sentences in former communist Czechoslovakia. These were mostly made-up or lousily justified charges of espionage, unsuccessful attempts to illegally leave the country with taking hostages qualified as terror, individual attacks against Party officials, subversion of the Republic, and various combinations of the above and similar acts of so-called anti-socialistic behavior. Prisoners sentenced for political crimes who got the highest sentences were serving their times in Slovakia in Leopoldov, 3rd Corrective Educational Group, and in the Czech Republic in Valdice and Mirov. Those with shorter sentences were in 2nd Corrective Educational Group in prison Illava. After November 17, 1989, full of hope and happy expectations we started thinking about freedom again and believed that former political prisoner Vaclav Havel won’t let us down and will grant amnesty first of all to us. This belief was reinforced by release of the so-called Bratislava Five and Jan Carnogursky compelled by the public. However, shortly after the November events, department Section I was abolished and we, the prisoners sentenced for political crimes, were mixed with ordinary criminals in all departments within the Leopoldov prison. We immediately understood that this dirty trick does not predict anything good for us. On January 1, 1990, we learnt that president Vaclav Havel shortened sentences of those imprisoned for Section I crimes for just one year! This meant that we were to rot in prison for many more years and none of us is going to go free anytime soon! I personally rejected this amnesty in a letter which I sent to the Ministry of Justice.

Did the competent authorities and Vaclav Havel know that there are still political prisoners in prisons?

Sure they did because in December 1989 the prisoners in Leopoldov started a hunger strike in protest and in relation to this two of us got out for short interruption of sentence who met with VPN officials and journalists. Among them was present as a speaker for the political prisoners now deceased mountain-climber Pavel Pochyly whom I handed over numbers of criminal files of those sentenced by Section I. By today it is obvious that the decision not to grant amnesty to prisoners sentenced by Section I was influenced by agents StB within the OF (Civic Forum) and VPN (Public against Violence). In this context and with this intention in the beginning of 1990 Jan Carnogursky and then General attorney officially announced that there are no political prisoners in our prisons. Amnesty granted by Vaclav Havel was not only betrayal of those who were sentenced for Section I crimes which were mostly politically motivated, but was also an obvious sabotage and threat to public security due to release of 24.000 ordinary prisoners at large.
None of us expected development like that as we all believed and were convinced that Havel will grant individual amnesty first to those sentenced for political crimes, and to prisoners sentenced for criminal matters will be granted amnesty which would shorten the remaining sentence by half in less serious offences and by one third in the most serious ones; whilst those with remnants of sentences shorter than one year would be granted amnesty without making differences. This way the prisoners would be leaving gradually and there would be no mass release. Paradoxically, such extent of presidential amnesty was not expected even by the guards who were talking to us about it.
In my interview for daily SME from December 18, 2011, I stated that my now deceased uncle Mgr Karol Paluch, member of the Solidarity since 1980, president of the foundation Cor Aegrum and a friend of Adam Michnik from Polish Solidarity intervened at Vaclav Havel in a letter from April 23, 1990, which I am publishing as an authentic document to prove that Vaclav Havel could not be bothered to respond, and also ignored personal intervention of Adam Michnik, editor of Gazeta Wyborcza, who personally asked Havel to grant Paluch clemency.

Citation from the letter of Mgr. Karol Paluch, in memoriam, letter dated April 23, 1990

Venerable Mr. President of the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic Vaclav Havel, in Your New Year address you did not forget, Mr. President, prisoners, and stated, among other things, that there are too many prisoners in Czechoslovakia who experienced personally the decline of justice, and now have to live in prisons, which instead of fostering the best what is in man liquidate people both mentally and physically. Simultaneously, you addressed prisoners that they have to understand that 40 years of inappropriate judicial proceedings cannot be cancelled overnight. I think you had in mind mainly political prisoners when you said in your address that persecuted were those who stood up against the totalitarian state power and those who simply decided to be themselves. One of these prisoners is also son of my sister who lives in Poprad, Frantisek Bednar, born February 15, 1957, at this time in prison in Ruzomberok, where he was transferred in the beginning of January 1990 from Correctional Educational Facility Leopoldov…
Our whole families in Slovakia and families in Poland and the USA were disturbed that Vaclav Havel, as a president, did not feel it is necessary to respond even to a letter of exceptionally distinguished and humble person such as Mgr Karol Paluch who in his 60 years of age overcame serious heart surgery in then ill-equipped and outdated hospital in Krakow. To the surgeons who operated him he promised to do everything possible to build a new modern cardiologic clinic. Nobody believed it at that time. But he managed to do exactly that together with Cardinal Macharsky – then Archbishop and professor Dziatkowiak they founded a foundation Cor Aegrum which collected financial means around the world. On June 9, 1997, Jan Pavel II personally consecrated the newly opened department of Cardiologic institute which performs tens of heart transplants.
Mgr. Karol Paluch Prezident Nadácie Cor Aegrum, Kardinál František Macharský, Sv. Otec Ján Pavol II. Návšteva Sv. Otca Jána Pavla II. v Krakove 9.6.1997 a posvätenie kliniky

I have to add that in April 1990 after the Leopoldov uprising redactors of STV discovered Marian Dudinsky, a journalist imprisoned for espionage which was released on parole as a criminal. During his first press conference with journalists he was warned by Fedor Gal not to reopen old wounds and talk about names of judges and interrogators in his case. This poor journalist described his anabasis in his memoirs “StB was my Godmother”. The Act on judicial rehabilitations 119/90 Coll. was passed on April 23, 1990. Despite this I was only released after the intervention of my desperate parents who on July 22, 1990, announced to the Presidential Office and other institutions that if they do not release me by September 1, 1990, they will start a hunger strike in protest at the Wenceslas Square in Prague. . Letter from the parents dated on July 22, 1990
I was released on August 15, 1990, due to cancellation of the sentence from 1984 by the Regional Court in Kosice by the Act 119/90 Coll. on judicial rehabilitations.

What Havel’s amnesty brought?

Apart from tremendous increase in criminality perpetrated by released prisoners, threat to public security and lives of citizens, the consequences of Havel’s amnesty was namely feeling of disappointment and frustration from the so-called Velvet Revolution for all those sentenced by Section I who already in 1990 learnt that November 17 was no revolution but an agreement on handover of power as per conditions agreed in advance and ensuring impunity for communists and members of the StB who immediately got 5 month salary as compensation whilst rehabilitation of their victims did not even start.
Understandably, real opponents of communist regime did not fit in this scenario. Hardened criminals who got their sentences shortened by one year just like we did soon set Leopoldov prison afire during a revolt which was paradoxically suppressed by the very same red berets who were sent by Alois Lorenz against the students at the National avenue. In 2008, in an interview for daily SME Jan budaj admitted that Havel made secret deals with the communists what was long before published in Canadian-Czech monthly Conscience in their article Secret deals Hegenbart-Havel. Secret deals Hegenbart-Havel.
Absurd drama playwright left after him absurd era in which former communists turned capitalists who had the first capital to start a business. We have got the Act on unlawfulness of the communist regime and paradoxically also the Communist Party which activities were not banned in former Czechoslovakia and which never had to return its money to the people.

Proposal of City prosecutor JUDr Tomas Sokol to ban the Communist party of Czechoslovakia which he pointed out was the one responsible for the crimes committed in the communist era which he compared to the crimes of fascism, was rejected by the OF and VPN. The reasoning of this proposal highlighted the fact that the Nazis for their ideology launched a global war and systematically liquidated members of other nations whilst Communists with their Class ideology liquidated members of their own nation and today they bear no responsibility for it. When somebody says he is an anti-fascist, he is celebrated by all. If he says he is n anti-communist, he is laughed at. Former agents and cooperators of StB are economic examples to follow for young generation and heroes of today’s consumer society.
In Slovakia almost all cadre reserves of the KSS (Communist Party of Slovakia) transformed in social democrats and everlasting love to the USSR was transformed in everlasting love to the EU. The rest of them were masked in Christian democracy which has got little to do with real Christianity.
After the elections in March 2012 these two political groups will likely come to some sort of symbiosis what will be reasoned as unavoidable salvation of Slovakia under the rule of the EU. In one thing they were right though. In 1989 they were shouting “we are not the same as they are!” They are not. They are much worse.
In 22 years of this rule what was left are discredited ideals of freedom and democracy, 7.000 victims of suicides for social reasons, homeless people dying in freezing weather in the streets, mothers who jump from windows in despair, billions missing from state funds which ended up on private accounts due to the fact that politics at state level was transformed into corruption partocracy and the most aggressive and sophisticated organized theft group ever which is at stage when they can pass their own bills in the parliament when protected by lawmaker immunity to make sure the crimes cannot be punishable by law.

František Bednár
World Association of former political prisoners of Czechoslovakia

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