Vaclav Havel's coffin transported to Prague Castle
PRAGUE (AP) — Thousands of Czechs joined Vaclav Havel's widow, relatives and friends in a somber procession through the capital Wednesday, paying their respects to the late Czech president. Thousands of others clapped as his casket rolled by.
The casket containing Havel's body was being transported from the Prague Crossroads, a former church Havel turned into a cultural center, to Prague Castle, the seat of the presidency, where the body will be on display until Friday's state funeral.
Many of those who lined the streets greeted the black car carrying the coffin with applause.
"He's a moral authority for me, an icon," said Jakub Sevcik, 35. "It's my last opportunity to say goodbye."
The presidents of France and Germany, Nicolas Sarkozy and Christian Wulff, as well as many other world leaders are expected to attend the funeral at the country's biggest and most famous church, St. Vitus Cathedral.
Thousands waited patiently for hours when the coffin with Havel's body went on display Monday to pay tribute to the former leader who died Sunday at age 75. Three days of national mourning began Wednesday.
Havel's flag-draped casket was placed on a historic caisson for the final part of the journey Wednesday and was escorted by an honor guard to the place where he spent more than 12 years as president. The caisson, drawn by six black horses, is the same that bore the coffin of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, Czechoslovakia's first president after it was founded in 1918, during his funeral in 1937.
Havel's successor and political archrival Vaclav Klaus, Prime Minister Petr Necas and other Czech leaders joined Havel's family, while thousands packed the square in front of the castle in the cold rain and applauded.
During an official memorial on Tuesday, Klaus called Havel "a brave man" who "was not afraid of making personal sacrifices for his views."
Havel was a dissident playwright who spent years in communist prisons before he led the 1989 peaceful revolution that ended more 40 years of communist rule.
"Our Velvet Revolution will be always connected with his name," Klaus said. "He contributed to the international prestige and authority of the Czech Republic in the world as no one else."