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Jan Langos, 59; Slovak dissident opened spy files

Jan Langos, a Slovak dissident who was responsible for opening secret-police files to the public following the collapse of communism, has died. He was 59.

Mr. Langos was killed when his car collided with another vehicle near the eastern Slovak town of Turna nad Bodvou, police spokeswoman Jana Demjanovicova said Thursday.

During communism, Mr. Langos worked for underground newspapers before becoming the first Czechoslovak interior minister after the fall of regimes across eastern Europe in 1989. Since 2003, he headed Slovakia's National Memory Institute, which provides access to once-classified records of the StB, the secret police.

``He knew that if this country should exist as a decent society it has to know its past," Martin Milan Simecka, a fellow dissident and the editor-in-chief of the Slovak daily Sme, said in a telephone interview from Bratislava.

Files at the Bratislava institute, which was set up by Mr. Langos, have shown that communist-era secret service informers included politicians and Roman Catholic officials.

Countries across eastern Europe have opened up their communist-era files to different degrees. Slovakia has been among the most public, while in Hungary historians and researchers are only able to request information.

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