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Dubcek Sues Party Hardliner For Slander In ’68 Soviet Invasion

March 5, 1989

VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ Former Czechoslovak Communist Party chief Alexander Dubcek has sued a longtime rival for slander stemming from the Soviet-led invasion of two decades ago, sources revealed Saturday.

Dubcek filed a lawsuit last summer against former Politburo hardliner Vasil Bilak, but well-informed sources say the case has yet to come to court.

Dubcek was 46 when he took over as party chief Jan. 5, 1968. He was ousted in the wake of the Soviet-led invasion of seven months later that crushed the ″Prague Spring″ reforms in Czechoslovakia.

He alleges that Bilak slandered him by saying that Dubcek had signed a statement in 1968 saying that Czechoslovakia was threatened by counterrevoluti on.

The charge by Bilak would run counter to Dubcek’s image as a visionary reformer who presaged the openness and reforms now embraced by Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

Bilak, a longtime party ideologist associated with the policies of former Soviet leader Leonik Brezhnev, resigned from all his political offices on Dec. 15.

He was strongly believed to have been opposed to sweeping economic reforms favored by former Czechoslovak Premier Lubomir Strougal, who stepped down in October 1988.

Bilak was one of three senior party officials reputed to have asked the Soviets to intervene in order to crush Dubcek’s liberal reforms. The other two were the late Drahomir Kolder and Alois Indra, who is still on the 13-man Prague Politburo.

According to the sources in Bratislava with direct contact to Dubcek, the onetime popular leader filed the slander charges in summer 1988, when Bilak was still a senior member of the Prague leadership.

Dubcek’s action was reportedly based on interviews published in the West in which Bilak alleged that Dubcek, at a 1968 meeting with Warsaw Pact leaders, had signed a document saying that Czechoslovakia was threatened by counterrevolution.

Dubcek was said to have denied the claim, insisting he had never seen such a document.

Both Bilak and Dubcek, who worked as a forestry employee in Bratislava until his retirement, now live in the Slovak capital as pensioners.

Should the case ever reach a courtroom it would be the first known lawsuit involving two former top-echelon Communist functionaries.

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