World in Brief, Dec. 20

By Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
December 20, 2009 Updated: December 22, 2009

Ayatollah Montazeri Dies, Thousands of Iranians Gather to Mourn

Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, once the successor to former Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeni before he fell out of favor, passed away on Saturday in the Shia holy city of Qom. In recent years, Montazeri, was an outspoken critic of the current Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In June during the post-presidential election protests, Montazeri said the violent reaction by Islamic officials "could lead to the fall of the regime". Thousands of Iranians gathered on Monday to mourn Montazeri’s passing in both Teheran and in Qom, alarming the regime and the Revolutionary Guard, which has been on alert during many recent public events in Iran.

Infamous Concentration Camp Recovered

The infamous, ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign, which hung above the entrance to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, was recovered by Polish police on Sunday, after it was stolen two days earlier. The sign, which literally means ‘Labour sets you free’, became a symbol after WW II representing the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany. In Auschwitz more than one million Jews were killed. The theft of the sign sparked national and international anger. Police set up security checks at airports and borders. The sign which was stolen Friday, was found cut in three pieces. Five man suspected of having stolen the bronze sign have been detained for questioning, so far their motive is unknown.

Activist, Hairdar, Granted Re-Entry into Western Saharan Territory

Political and human rights activist, Aminatou Haidar, returned to the Western Saharan Territory, after a joint U.S., France, and Spanish diplomatic effort with the Morrocan government to allow her re-entry. Haidar has been on a hunger strike and living out of the Lanzarote Airport in the Canary Islands for the last four weeks. She says she will continue her hunger strike until she is safely returned home. She was arrested on Nov. 13 in the disputed Western Sahara territory, which is controlled by the Moroccan government, after attempting to return home from New York City where she was awarded the 2009 Civil Courage Prize.

Army Colonel Appointed PM of Madagascar

The leader of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina, appointed an army colonel his prime minister on Sunday. This move by the country’s military backed leader has been an effort to find a solution for the country’s political crisis AFP reported. Rajoelina took power in Madagascar, which lies 250 miles off the coast of Mozambique in the Indian Ocean, in a coup in March this year. Other African countries have refused to recognize his presidency and Madagascar lost out on millions of dollars in aid after foreign donors suspended their aid. Rajoelina announced on national television on Wednesday that parliamentary elections will be held on March 20.

United Kingdom
Eurostar Suspends Rail Service due to Frigid Conditions

Eurostar, the European train company which provides rail services from London to Paris and Brussels, has suspended travel due to frigid weather conditions. According to statements released by the CEO Richard Brown, services might not resume till Christmas Day. Five Eurostar trains broke down in the tunnels running under the English Channel on Friday leading to Sunday night’s decision to postpone services indefinitely. An updated announcement regarding Eurostar’s services will be made on their Web site Monday night at 6 p.m. GMT (1 p.m. EST). Eurostar further announced a “compensation policy for travelers who suffered major delays on Friday Dec. 18, or Saturday DEC. 19.”