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Dissident Urges Lifting of Ban on Czech Group

January 03, 1988|From Reuters

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia — The leader of the banned Jazz Section cultural group, just released from a 16-month prison sentence, has called for Czechoslovakia's new Communist Party chief, Milos Jakes, to let his group operate legally.

Karel Srp said after his release Friday afternoon that the group should be permitted to regain legal status under the Czechoslovak constitution and to operate in accordance with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki accords.

"We have a great responsibility not just to the Czechoslovak people but to all in the world who support the Helsinki Agreement," said Srp, who lost his job as a publicist with the state recording company because of his activities with the Jazz Section.

Srp, 50, was arrested in September, 1986, and sentenced last March for illegal commercial activity. He was convicted along with four Jazz Section organizers of continuing to publish and sell books and magazines after the Interior Ministry closed the Section, formerly part of the Musicians' Union, in October, 1984.

The Section angered the Communist authorities by challenging their strict control of the country's cultural diet. It provided books on philosophy, art and music not officially permitted as well as records and films for more than 5,000 members.

Srp's arrest and the sentencing of the five brought strong protests from the United States and other Western nations. Diplomats said the closely watched trial was the most important in Czechoslovakia in almost a decade.

The Interior Ministry last month rejected an attempt by Jazz Section members to revive the cultural group legally under the name Unijazz. The group has appealed the decision, which was made before Jakes took over as party general secretary from Gustav Husak on Dec. 17.

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