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Two board members quit. The president died in his bed. A widow mourned, the staff revolted and accusations flew.

Now, a break-in at the Montreal offices of Rights and Democracy. It's the latest twist in a political drama that grows more unusual by the day.

Montreal Police confirm that property was stolen from the offices of Rights and Democracy between Friday and Saturday evening last week. Two laptop computers belonging to staff members were taken. One of the laptops belonged to the organization's media liaison.

The break-in occurred while staff were in Ottawa for the funeral of their late president, Rémy Beauregard, who died of a heart attack after a bitterly divided board meeting on Jan. 7.

The incident is still under investigation, police said.

Employees at Rights and Democracy would not comment Tuesday, although they have not previously been shy about speaking out.

The organization's 47 staff members have issued a public vote of no-confidence in board chair Aurel Braun and his two vice-chairs. In a Jan. 11 letter, copied to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, they demanded the resignations of Mr. Braun, Jacques Gauthier and Elliott Tepper. The letter accused them of mistreating Mr. Beauregard.

Mr. Braun, a University of Toronto professor, issued a directive on Monday forbidding staff from any further public communication without prior written approval.

The directive came as Mr. Braun announced the appointment of Mr. Gauthier as interim president of Rights and Democracy. The president is responsible for managing staff and the organization's daily operations.

Montreal police say that signs of scratches on the doors of the Rights and Democracy office could indicate tools were used to break in, but it's not clear whether the marks were made recently. The office is in a large building on de Maisonneuve Blvd. and employees usually use secure key-cards to get in.

Rights and Democracy is a government-funded agency created by an Act of Parliament to advocate for human rights and democracy abroad. Over the past year, divisions between recent Conservative appointee and some longer-serving members have thrown the board into disarray.

Mr. Beauregard, who was also appointed by the Conservatives, found himself part of a minority group that was defeated by 7 to 6 in nearly every decision made at the Jan. 7 meeting. The new appointees were trying to take the organization in a radically different direction, according to former board members.

Sima Samar, a former deputy-president of Afghanistan and head of Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission, resigned from the board in protest, as did Payam Akhavan, a McGill University law professor.

The issues that divided the board included a decision to finance Israeli and Palestinian organizations in the aftermath of a Gaza offensive, and the withdrawal of multi-year funding for victims of sexual violence in Congo.

Last week, a coalition of 103 lawyers and academics wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to reconsider the composition of the board, which is made up of 10 Canadians appointed by the government, and three international members.

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