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Prague renames airport after late president Havel

The Czech capital's main airport has been renamed in honor of late Czech president Vaclav Havel. The dissident playwright who later led his country was credited with restoring freedoms such as the right to travel.

The Friday ceremony was held on the day that Havel, who died last December, would have celebrated his 76th birthday.

"In reality it was he who opened up the world to the people," said Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. "I hope that travelers will be reminded of this every time they depart or arrive here."

More than 80,000 Czechs voted for the renaming of the airport, which serves some 12 million passengers each year. The plan for the name change came from filmmaker Fero Fenic, following Havel's death.

Vaclav Havel(Photo: dapd)

Havel's plays brought him into conflict with the former communist regime

President Vaclav Klaus excused himself from the ceremony while Prime Minister Petr Necas was on other official duties.

Havel was at the forefront of the 1989 revolution that toppled four decades of communist rule before he became president.

As a playwright, Havel's underground theater riled authorities at the time of the 1968 Prague Spring, the first flowering of a democratic movement in what was then Czechoslovakia.

Havel went on to become a co-founder of the Charter 77 movement for democratic change.  As the country's most renowned dissident, he suffered harassment from authorities and was subject to repeated periods of imprisonment.

rc/ (AP, dpa)