Vaclav Havel - Former Czech Republic Leader Vaclav Havel Dies
Former Czech Republic leader and playwright Vaclav Havel has died at the age of 75.
Havel, who ruled the country for 10 years from 1993, passed away at his country home in Hradecek, north of Prague on Sunday (18Dec11) following a long respiratory illness.
He rose to fame after challenging Prague's Communist rulers, and his plays were subsequently banned for two decades.
Havel was jailed three times after launching Charter 77, a manifesto demanding the Communist government adhere to international standards for human rights, in 1977.
U.S. President Barack Obama has paid tribute to Havel following his death, stating, "His peaceful resistance shook the foundations of an empire, exposed the emptiness of a repressive ideology, and proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon.
"He played a seminal role in the Velvet Revolution that won his people their freedom and inspired generations to reach for self-determination and dignity in all parts of the world."
Havel's respiratory illness reportedly stemmed from operations for lung cancer and a burst intestine in the late 1990s, which left him frail.