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The Czech Republic will hold three days of national mourning for former dissident and leader Václav Havel, who died on Sunday. Mr Havel paved the way for democracy in Czechoslovakia in 1989 and was the leading figure of the Velvet Revolution. Speaking at a press conference after an extra-ordinary government meeting on Monday, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said the cabinet wanted to honour Mr Havel not only as the first post-Communist president, but also as a symbol of all-encompassing change in society. During the mourning period, flags on public buildings will be lowered to half-mast and a minute of silence will held at 12 pm on Friday in Mr Havel’s memory.

A moral icon and symbol of the modern Czech state, former president Havel died on Sunday morning at the age of 75 after a protracted illness. The former dissident, playwright and politician passed away in his sleep at his country house Hrádeček, in northern Bohemia, tended to by his wife Dagmar. Mr Havel’s health had deteriorated in recent months, forcing him to limit his public appearances. The last time he appeared in public was last week, when he received the Dalai Lama during his Prague visit.

During the national days of mourning, all casinos and betting agencies will remain closed; there is a possibility also that sports events may be cancelled. In addition, organisers have been asked to gauge the appropriateness of planned public events and the media have been asked to carefully consider broadcast content. The cabinet is also preparing a special bill in the name of the former president, recognising his merit in leading the country out of totalitarianism to freedom and democracy.