June 20, 2013
First post-1989 Czech foreign minister dies
Jiri Dienstbier, a Czech senator and Czechoslovakia's first foreign minister after the end of communism, has died aged 73, Czech news agency CTK reported.
The former journalist worked as a Czechoslovak Radio commentator until he lost his job and Communist Party membership because of his opposition to the 1968 Soviet invasion.
After that he worked in various jobs including as an archivist and night watchman while becoming more active as a dissident.
In 1977, he was one of the first signatories of Charter 77, a human rights movement in Czechoslovakia whose members, including playwright and later Czech President Vaclav Havel, went on to be political leaders after the fall of communism.
CTK said Dienstbier died after a long illness.
"I lost an old friend with whom I have gone through a lot," Havel said in a statement on his website.
Dienstbier, along with Havel and others in the anti-communist movement, was imprisoned in 1979 for three years.
He became the first Czechoslovak foreign minister in 1989, and photographs of him cutting border fences when the Iron Curtain fell became a symbol of the time.
He served at the end of the 1990s as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and was known for opposing NATO bombing of Serbia.
Dienstbier was a Social Democrat senator and was last elected in 2008 to a six-year term.
He was also a Thomson Reuters Trustee Director, appointed in 2005.