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Middle East - France

Palestinians agree Arafat body can be exhumed after polonium poisoning claim

Suha Arafat with France's then-PM Jean-Pierre Raffarin at a homage to Yasser Arafat  at Villacoublay military base, 11 November 2004.
Suha Arafat with France's then-PM Jean-Pierre Raffarin at a homage to Yasser Arafat at Villacoublay military base, 11 November 2004. Getty Images/P.Le Segretain
3 min

The body of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is likely to be exhumed in order to find out if he was killed by polonium poisoning. The Palestinian Authority is ready to give the go-ahead after an analysis reported by Al Jazeera TV found high levels of polonium on personal effects with him when he died in a French military hospital.

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Tawfiq Tirawi, who led a Palestinian probe into the death, told news agencies that he met President Mahmoud Abbas Wednesday and that he agreed to an analysis of Arafat’s remains if the former leader’s family accepted the idea.

Arafat’s widow, Suha, has already told Al Jazeera, which has conducted a nine-month investigation into the death, that she wants her late husband’s body exhumed.

Arafat, who led the struggle for Palestinian statehood for four decades, died on 11 November 2004 in the Percy military hospital near Paris. He had been flown there from his compound in Ramallah. The compound was at the time under siege by the Israeli military.

 

Doctors have refused to discuss the case on the grounds that it is a “military secret”, according to Al Jazeera.

The Percy military hospital where he died told Suha Arafat that blood and urine samples taken from her husband had been destroyed and French officials refused to reveal the precise cause of death at the time, citing privacy laws.

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But François Buchaud, the head of the Insititute of Radiation Physics at Lausanne University analysed samples of bodily fluids taken from clothing and other belongings given to the widow after he died.

He found “some significant polonium” in all the samples, he told Al Jazeera.

A British inquiry found that Russian spy-turned-dissident Alexander Litvinenko died after being poisoned polonium was apparently slipped into his tea in a London sushi restaurant in 2006.

At least two people linked with Israel’s nuclear programme have died after exposure to the element, according to Al Jazeera.

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