Jan Carnogursky was born in Bratislava in 1944. In 1969 he graduated from Prague’s Charles University and two years later from the University of Bratislava. In 1970 he started his career as a lawyer. From October 1976 he was kept under surveillance by the Secret Police after meeting representatives of the Catholic Intellectuals Club in Warsaw. In 1981 he was expelled from the Law Society for defending a number of dissidents and religious activists, and yet he offered legal aid to the signatories of Charta ’77. From 1981 to 1987 he worked as a driver and then as a legal consultant; he defended the underground Franciscan monks arrested by the Secret Police on 27 March 1983. From 1982 to 1984 he helped edit the underground periodical “Religion and the contemporary world” and contributed to other samizdat magazines. His writings were published abroad and broadcast by Radio Free Europe.
In 1986 he published his I accuse you in Bern under the pseudonym “Karol”; the book describes Slovakia’s most famous cases of discrimination against believers and priests; he enjoyed close relations with the Czech opposition. In March 1987 he was sacked and was unable to find another job. In October he signed the Declaration against the deportation of Jews from Slovakia; he was one of the organizers of the “Candle demonstration” held on 25 March 1988 in Bratislava and was arrested as a result. In the same year he signed the Civil Liberties Movement’s Democracy for all manifesto, and in 1989 the Some phrases petition. He took part in the work of the Social Self-Defence initiative and in that of the Helsinki Czechoslovak Committee. At that time he was in close contact with the Polish opposition, thanks also to the fact that he spoke good Polish, and he contributed to drawing up the "Charta ’77" papers on religious freedom violations and on the situation of national minority groups.
On 14 August 1989 he was arrested for speaking out for the right to free elections, for the publication of the underground magazine “Letters to Bratislava” and for asking for the victims of the 1968 invasion to be justly remembered. The other members of the “Bratislav Group of Five” – namely Miroslav Kusy, Hana Ponicka, Anton Selecky and Vladimir Manak – were also arrested. During their trial, the accused received solidarity from the democratic opposition, from the underground Church, from a number of western countries and from the UN; a petition for their release was signed by numerous people, including the underground bishop Jan C. Korec and Aleksander Dubček. Several solidarity demonstrations were staged in front of the court.
Carnogursky was freed on 25 November 1989, after the fall of the Communist regime. On 10 December he became deputy Prime Minister of the coalition government, from April to June he was the deputy Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia, in June 1990 he was elected deputy Prime Minister of the Slovak government, and from April 1991 to July 1992 he was Prime Minister of Slovakia. In 1990 he founded the Christian Democratic Movement, which he led until the year 2000. From 1992 to 1998 he was a member of the Slovak parliament, from 1998 to 2002 he was Minister of Justice. Today he is still working as a lawyer.
Gardens that honour Jan Carnogursky
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