Thousands line streets in tribute to Czech leader

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Thousands of Czech citizens marched in a procession behind Vaclav Havel’s wife Dagmar, family members and friends to pay respects to the late Czech president.

The coffin containing Mr Havel’s body was transported yesterday from the Prague Crossroads, a former church which he turned into a cultural centre, to Prague Castle, the seat of the presidency, where it will be on display until tomorrow’s state funeral.

Many of those who lined the streets greeted the black hearse with applause.

Thousands waited patiently for hours to pay tribute to the former leader, who died last Sunday aged 75. The government has declared three days of national mourning.

“He’s a moral authority for me, an icon,” said Jakub Sevcik, 35. “It’s my last opportunity to say goodbye at the end.”

The presidents of France and Germany, Nicolas Sarkozy and Christian Wulff, as well their counterparts and leaders from many other countries are expected to attend the funeral at the country’s biggest and most famous church, St Vitus Cathedral.

An official memorial is planned for Mr Havel later in the day.

The final transfer of the flag-draped coffin into the castle was made on an historic carriage, drawn by six black horses, which bore the coffin of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, Czechoslovakia’s first president during his funeral in 1937.

His successor and political arch-rival, Vaclav Klaus, Prime Minister Petr Necas and other Czech leaders joined Mr Havel’s family, while thousands packed the square in front of the castle and applauded.

Mr Havel’s coffin will be at the 15th-century Vladislav Hall until the funeral.