Czechoslovak police broke up an independent meeting attended by prominent Western academics and human rights activists on Friday, seizing its chairman, playwright Vaclav Havel, moments after the seminar began.

Fifteen guests from the United States, Britain, France and six other West European countries gathered in a Prague hotel restaurant for the seminar entitled "Czecholovakia 88" and due to examine the country's 20th-century history.Sally Laird , editor of the London-based magazine "Index on Censorship," photographed three plainclothed officers as they took Havel away, but they later confiscated her film.

A burly woman identifying herself as "a hotel employee in charge of keeping order" then distributed envelopes to the foreign participants containing an unsigned warning that the seminar was illegal.