Czechs honor student who wanted self-immolation to inspire

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PRAGUE (AP) — Czechs are paying tribute to a university student who burned himself to death in Prague 50 years ago to inspire resistance against the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Jan Palach’s self-immolation shocked the country but failed to produce an immediate impact. The hard-line communist regime established after the invasion harshly persecuted dissenters.

But Palach’s action on Jan. 16, 1969 did inspire weeklong protests two decades later and the Velvet Revolution led by Vaclav Havel later in 1989 that ended Czechoslovakia’s communist era.

The 20-year-old Palach set himself on fire five months after the Warsaw Pact countries crushed liberal reforms known as the Prague Spring. He died three days later.

Commemorative events are being held at Charles University, where Palach was a student, and elsewhere in the Czech Republic.

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