French court to rule in June on plea to re-open Arafat 'murder' probe


Versailles (France) (AFP)

A French court will rule in June on late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's widow's challenge to an earlier judgment dismissing her claim that he was poisoned to death, judicial sources said on Friday.

Suha Arafat's lawyers, Francis Szpiner and Renaud Semerdjian, contested the decision at an appeals court in Versailles, west of Paris, on Friday, arguing that the probe into his death was hastily wound up.

A judgment is due on June 17, a judicial source said.

Arafat died in Percy military hospital near Paris aged 75 in November 2004 after developing stomach pains while at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

His widow filed a case in 2012 at a court in Nanterre, west of Paris, saying he was murdered.

The same year, Arafat's tomb in Ramallah was opened for a few hours allowing three teams of French, Swiss and Russian investigators to collect around 60 samples.

Three French judges concluded their investigations in April last year and sent their findings to the Nanterre prosecutor.

A centre in the Swiss city of Lausanne had tested biological samples taken from Arafat's belongings that were given to his widow after his death, and found "abnormal levels of polonium."

It stopped short of saying that he had been poisoned by the extremely radioactive element.

However, French experts found that the isotopes polonium-210 and lead-210, found in Arafat's grave and in the samples, were of "an environmental nature," Nanterre prosecutor Catherine Denis said in April.

Lawyers for Arafat's widow then accused the judges of closing the investigation too quickly and called for more experts to be questioned.