Washington: US President Barack Obama on Sunday mourned the death of Vaclav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic.

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing today of Vaclav Havel, a playwright and prisoner of conscience who became president of Czechoslovakia and of the Czech Republic,” a print media quoted Obama as saying in a statement.  Havel, who was also a playwright, essayist and poet, died at the age of 75 following a long illness. He died during sleep in his countryside home in Hradecek, the Czech News Agency said, quoting his secretary.

“His peaceful resistance shook the foundations of an empire, exposed the emptiness of a repressive ideology, and proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon,” said the US President.  He also praised Havel's 'seminal role' in the so-called Velvet Revolution in 1989 that won his people their freedom and “Inspired generations to reach for self-determination and dignity in all parts of the world.”

“He also embodied the aspirations of half a continent that had been cut off by the Iron Curtain, and helped unleash tides of history that led to a united and democratic Europe,” said Obama.  Havel became president of Czechoslovakia in December 1989 and served as Czech president from 1993 after Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. He led the Czech Republic until 2003.  

Havel became president of then Czechoslovakia in 1989, oversaw its peaceful split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993 and led the country until 2003.   He wrote over 20 plays and numerous non-fiction works that were translated internationally. He received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, the Order of Canada, the Ambassador of Conscience Award and several other distinctions.