By Lucia Suarez Sang
Published January 18, 2019
A man set himself on fire in downtown Prague on Friday amid commemorative events to remember a student who burned himself to death 50 years ago.
Czech police said the man born in 1964 poured an unspecified flammable liquid on himself during events at Wenceslas Square before setting himself ablaze.
People nearby were able to extinguish the fire.
Prague’s rescue services said the man, aged either 54 or 55, suffered burns on about 30 percent of his body. He was taken to the hospital in an artificially-induced coma.
“According to initial information, a man born in 1964 poured an inflammable liquid on his body and set himself on fire,” Prague police said on their Twitter feed.
A young woman at the scene told Reuters that she saw him from the distance and rushed in when she realized he was on fire.
“I started to put out the fire, tried to douse it. He had petrol on himself, you can still smell it,” she said.
The man set himself on fire in the same spot at the elevated top of the historic square where Jan Palach set himself ablaze in January 1969 in protest of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Palach set himself on fire after the Warsaw Pact countries crushed liberal reforms known as the Prague Spring. He died three days later.
Police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova told reporters on Friday "there is no evidence the act had been a protest or politically motivated".
There was no immediate word on the man’s motives.