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Czech screenwriter Jiri Krizan dies at age 68

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PRAGUE (AP) - Jiri Krizan was expelled from high school and blocked from attending college, all because the Communists who once ran Czechoslovakia didn't like his father's politics.

The Czech screenwriter overcame those hurdles to help Vaclav Havel draft demands for basic human rights _ manifesto that helped bring down the communist regime in 1989 _ before becoming a trusted presidential adviser when Havel took power.

Krizan, 68, died of a heart attack Wednesday in the eastern village of Branky, Jan Krystof, of the TOP 09 political party, said Thursday.

Born Oct. 26, 1941, Krizan's childhood was dominated by his family's persecution by the Communist regime. His father was executed following a political trial in 1951.

Despite being blacklisted from college for years, Krizan wrote screenplays to more than a dozen movies, including "Shadows of a Hot Summer," directed by Frantisek Vlacil and won the top award at the 1978 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival that features movies from eastern Europe.

In 1989, he helped Havel draft a petition known as "A Few Sentences" that called on communist authorities to release political prisoners and recognize basic human rights such as freedom of speech. The petition was signed by tens of thousands of ordinary Czechs and contributed to the fall of communism in November that year.

After Havel became the country's president in 1989, Krizan became one of his main advisers, even serving as deputy interior minister from 1992-1994. He returned to screenwriting in 1995.

"I am deeply hit by the sudden death of Jiri Krizan because we were very close friends," Havel said in a statement Thursday. "Since the spring of 1989, he was one of my closest colleagues ... and helped me a great deal as my adviser at the Prague Castle."

Krizan ran for office in May but did not win a seat in the Czech Republic's lower house of parliament.

There was no immediate word on survivors.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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