Petr Uhl, a Czech journalist, former dissident, human rights activist and friend of Poland, died at the age of 80. His family informed about his death on Wednesday. He was a Knight of the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, which he received in 2000.
Uhl was one of the founders of Polish-Czechoslovak Solidarity, which united dissidents on both sides of the border of communist countries. He was one of the Czechoslovak opposition activists whose image can be seen in the photos from the 1980s on the border in the Karkonosze Mountains.
He did not hide his leftist views and sympathies both in the years when he opposed the oppressive system and later, after the overthrow of communism. His friends emphasized that Petr with his leftist views could never belong to the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. He understood the freedom of the individual, the press, expression and, above all, human rights differently.
Active participant in the opposition to communism movement
He was one of the prominent figures in the opposition to communism. He was imprisoned for the first time in 1969, as one of the activists of the Revolutionary Youth Movement, which was created by students from the Prague faculty of philosophy. In 1971, Uhl was tried along with other dissidents in one of the first political trials after 1968. He was sentenced to four years for an attempt to overthrow the system. This was the justification for most of the judgments handed down in political matters by the communist judiciary.
After his release, he worked as a designer, and at the end of 1976 he joined the group of authors of Charter 77, he was among its first signatories. Shortly thereafter, he also co-founded the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted (VONS), which dealt with people harassed by the communist authorities.
In 1978, he started to publish an underground journal about the activities of Charter 77 “Infoch”, in which he also published information about events in Poland. Each of the front-page issues had his name and address. In 1979, he was sentenced to another sentence for his activity in VONS – five years in prison. He joked that he had one thing in common with the communist state – a crime story. After his release, he worked, like other opponents of the system, as a smoker.
Relationship with politics
He was arrested for the last time on November 19, 1989, after a student demonstration that triggered an avalanche of changes in Czechoslovakia bringing the fall of communism. He was accused of spreading information about the alleged death of a student, Martin Szmid, during a demonstration on November 17. The indictment was dropped a week later, and Uhl apologized to a million attendees at one of the Velvet Revolution’s largest gatherings for misrepresentation.
After the fall of communism, Uhl became a member of the Federal Assembly of Czechoslovakia, but preferred to be a journalist and publicist than a politician. He wrote for the left-wing daily “Pravo” and for the emerging Internet media. In 2006, he ran for the Chamber of Deputies of Parliament, but was not elected. In the social democratic government of Milosz Zeman, he was a plenipotentiary for human rights.
Uhl was a Knight of the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, which he received in 2000.
Main photo source: CTK Photo / Martin Sterba, Rene Fluger / PA