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Former Czech Communist Official Sentenced - 2003-10-14


A former top Communist official is behind bars to begin serving a six-year jail term for his role in the 1968 Soviet-bloc invasion of what was then Czechoslovakia. Karel Hoffmann is the first former Communist leader to go to jail for actions connected to the invasion.

Hoffmann, 79, was head of Czech telecommunications at the time of the invasion in the summer of 1968. An appeals court upheld his conviction for sabotage in ordering Czechoslovak radio to stop broadcasting during the occupation.

The court said Hoffmann's actions helped keep Czechs and Slovaks in the dark as Warsaw Pact tanks rolled through what was then Czechoslovakia.

The court found the public was unaware that the Communist leadership condemned the Soviet-led occupation that crushed the Prague Spring experiment in "Socialism with a human face."

More than 100 people were killed during the invasion and the reformist Communist Party leader, Alexander Dubcek, was arrested. Tens of thousands of people fled the country.

Hoffmann appealed his June conviction as unjust, arguing he was a victim of what his lawyer called an "unfortunate, politically-motivated show trial." But the appeals court not only rejected Hoffmann's argument, it raised the jail term from four to six years.

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