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WITCH HUNT IN PRAGUE Is Jan Kavan a Hero or a Traitor? In Answering That Question, Czechoslovakia Must Come to Terms With the Sins of Its Communist Past
[Home Edition]
Los Angeles Times (pre-1997 Fulltext) - Los Angeles, Calif.
Author: Gallagher, Nora
Date: Sep 29, 1991
Start Page: 22
Section: Los Angeles Times Magazine; Times Magazine Desk
Abstract (Document Summary)

Kavan's thick file covers the period from early 1969 to July, 1970, and only that period. It consists of reports sent to Prague from a diplomat in the Czech Embassy in London, Frantisek Zajicek. Among other things, the file says that in 1969 Kavan, under orders from Zajicek, stopped a student protest in London planned for the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. It describes the falling-out between British journalist William Shawcross and Kavan after Kavan tried to pump Shawcross for information on a report on the Show Trials that was smuggled out of Prague. Kavan's code name, the file reports, was Kato, and the letters before his name were "DS."

The file was odd; everyone who read it agreed. "If you read one sentence, he's innocent, and then the next one, he's guilty," said Miroslav Jansta, a member of the commission. "You think he didn't know (Zajicek was an agent), then you think, it's impossible he didn't know." In an effort to settle the question, the commission, without consulting Parliament or the Ministry of the Interior, decided to talk to the agent himself, who was still living in Prague. Zajicek contradicted what he wrote 20 years ago. He told the commission, for example, that while he asked "a lot of questions of Kavan, I didn't pass on any instructions." He said that "Kavan never knew I was an employee," then equivocated: "at least that's what I still believe." Asked how many times he met with Kavan, he said, "About six or, at the most, once a month." When confronted with a record of 46 meetings, he replied: "I didn't write that. It's not my responsibility."

In 1967, Kavan's dean suggested he go to England to write his thesis on the Czech/Austrian student opposition during World War II. He studied in the British Museum by day and worked as a hospital orderly by night. Because he was the president of the Czech Students Union, he sometimes dropped in at the Czech Embassy to talk to diplomat Frantisek Zajicek, the liaison to the Ministry of Education in Prague. Zajicek asked Kavan to write three reports on the need of Czech students for grants and extensions of their legal stays. These reports, which Kavan thought were going to the Ministry of Education, ended up in his STB file.

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