Three former students from the Faculty of Architecture at Brno's Technical University were ordered by a Moravian court on Thursday to apologise for libel against their former teacher some fourteen years ago, during the turbulent days of the Velvet Revolution. The student body leaders labelled communist party representative Jan Snasel an "arrogant demagogue" and an "opportunist".
A court in Brno, the second-largest Czech city, has ruled that three former students of architecture must apologise to a former communist teacher, apparently ending a dispute that has dragged on for fourteen years. In late 1989, Martin Lastovicka, Jiri Slezak, and Zdenek Hirnsal were all students at Brno's Technical University, representing the student body and expressing solidarity with the ideals of the Velvet Revolution that would bring down the Communist regime.
As such they criticised Jan Snasel - the head of the faculty's Communist Party branch. That, however, raised the ire of their former teacher and he later filed suit for slander. On Thursday the court in Brno ruled in his favour - saying there was no proof Mr Snasel had been what the students claimed him to be.
Architect Ivan Ruller, who took over as dean of the Faculty of Architecture at Brno's Technical University in 1990, has supported the students - then and now. He sees their stand as morally justifiable in helping to bring down the communists in Czechoslovakia - and pave the way for changes at the school in the 1990s.
"The students were of course reacting to what happened on November 17th, 1989, on Prague's Narodni Trida avenue, where communist police beat-up students who had been protesting peacefully. Everybody should understand that this influenced our own students' actions, leading them to protest against their communist teachers."
At the same time Mr Ruller said that among the students no one ever stood up on Mr Snasel's behalf:
"Nobody ever came to protest on his behalf, to say things were unfair. To my knowledge Mr Snasel never distanced himself from the communist party, so he must have stood by its actions. This is a party that never apologised for the injustices it conducted over forty years."
All three former students - now respected architects - say they have no intention of apologising: one of them saying he couldn't live with himself if he did. All three will appeal Thursday's decision in Czech courts - and should that fail - will rest their hopes in the European Court of human rights in Strasbourg, where they have already filed a complaint.
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