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Archive for Sunday, April 10, 2005

Briefly

April 10, 2005

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Norway

Police question suspect in theft of Munch pieces

A suspect in the brazen daytime theft of two Edward Munch masterpieces was being questioned over the weekend, and police said they were hopeful more arrests would follow.

The 37-year-old man, who has not been identified, was arrested Friday in Oslo. He is suspected of involvement in the raid of the Munch Museum in Oslo in August, where three armed and masked robbers escaped with "The Scream" and "Madonna."

Police prosecutor Morten Hojem Ervik declined to say how the man might have been involved, but the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang reported that police believe the suspect supplied the getaway car.

"Is this a breakthrough? As long as (the paintings) are still out there, you can debate whether it's a breakthrough or not," Hojem Ervik said.

The paintings, which are among Munch's best-known, were stolen on Aug. 22. "The Scream," a 20th-century icon that depicts an anguished figure who appears to be screaming or shielding his ears from a scream, is too well known for the thieves to try to sell, experts say.

Haiti

Prominent rebel leader killed in police shootout

Haitian police on Saturday shot and killed a prominent rebel leader who helped force former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile last year, officials said.

Police killed Remissainthe Ravix during a shootout in an industrial area in the capital of Port-au-Prince, said U.N. civilian police spokesman Dan Moskaluk. The violence was the latest in a series of clashes that have pitted police and U.N. peacekeepers against ex-soldiers and street gangs.

Early Saturday, Haitian and U.N. police were searching for suspects in Friday's shooting of a U.N. civilian employee, who was lightly injured, when they saw about 10 armed men fleeing an area in the Delmas neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Moskaluk said.

Police cornered the men and began exchanging fire, killing Ravix, Moskaluk said. He said it was unclear whether Ravix was armed. No other casualties were reported.

Ravix was one of four key leaders of the bloody three-week revolt that led to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's ouster on Feb. 29, 2004. The barrel-chested rebel, who often appeared before reporters in camouflage fatigues, was a sergeant in the Haitian army that Aristide disbanded in 1995.

Libya

Bank takes back money due to victims

A Libyan Central Bank official said the government has withdrawn half a billion dollars from an escrow account meant for relatives of people killed in the downing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, the official news agency reported.

The official, quoted in a JANA late Friday, did not give a reason for the withdrawal of the money, intended for a final installment of $2 million per family. Libya, which has acknowledged responsibility for the bombing, has already paid each family $8 million in compensation after the United States and United Nations agreed to lift sanctions.

But the State Department has not removed Libya from its list of states that sponsor terrorism -- the condition Libya set for the final payment.

A State Department spokeswoman, Joanne Moore, had no comment Saturday.

The 1988 bombing killed 270 people, including 181 Americans. In September, Washington removed a ban on commercial air service to Libya and released $1.3 billion in frozen Libyan assets in recognition of its steps to eliminate its program for weapons of mass destruction.

Mexico City

Judge reverses Fox mole decision

In an embarrassing reversal for Mexican prosecutors, a judge Saturday ordered a former presidential aide freed from prison, saying there was insufficient evidence that he was a mole spying on Vicente Fox for drug traffickers.

The aide, Nahum Acosta, was still behind bars in the La Palma maximum-security prison Saturday evening because of a lock-down declared earlier by prison authorities.

His attorney, Jose Patino, told reporters outside the prison that Acosta may file a false imprisonment lawsuit against the government. As she awaited her husband's release, Acosta's wife, Evelia, said the arrest had ruined the couple's lives.

The sensational case broke Feb. 3 when prosecutors arrested Acosta at the presidential residence, Los Pinos. He worked on Fox's travel staff as an advance man helping arrange the president's trips around Mexico.

South Africa

Political party linked to apartheid bows out

The party linked to decades of white racist rule in South Africa formally left the political stage Saturday, its leader apologizing for "a system grounded in injustice."

The federal council of the New National Party -- the successor to the National Party that led apartheid -- overwhelmingly approved the party's dissolution at a meeting in Johannesburg. This followed the party's decision last year to join forces with the ruling African National Congress after a humiliating defeat in national elections.

"What we do today is part of our contribution to finally ending the division of the South African soul," said NNP leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk. "The forerunner of the NNP, the NP, brought development to a section of South Africa, but it also brought suffering through a system grounded in injustice."

In the vote, 88 members were in favor of the motion to disband, two were against and three abstained.

The National Party, which came to power in 1948, presided over 48 years of systematic and often brutal oppression of the country's black majority, who were denied the right to vote or to mix with whites.

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