Probe into Palestinian leader’s death reopened
Former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s body will be exhumed next Tuesday aided by French, Swiss and Russian experts to determine whether or not his death was caused by poisoning in 2004.
His death was initially attributed to a lethal stroke. However, slight traces of the chemical polonium-210 were found on his clothing. The initial suspicions were never fully investigated following his immediate death due to a request by Arafat’s wife, Suha, for there to be no post-mortem examination.
Since then, Suha has passed Arafat’s clothing to a Palestinian TV network and the investigation has snowballed, gaining the services of the Russians, French and Swiss.
The exhumation will be carried out by Tawfik Tiwari, Palestine’s former intelligence chief. Quoted at a news conference, he stated: “November 27 will be one of the most painful days of my life for personal reasons as well as patriotic, political and religious ones. But it is necessary to get the painful truth behind Yasser Arafat’s death.”
The tests on Mr Arafat’s clothing were deemed inconclusive by various experts leading them to the necessity of having to take samples from his bones in the hopes of finding some concrete evidence.
Even though the initial cause of death was attributed to a stroke, the fact that no post-mortem was ever carried out has led to a string of conspiracy theories including death by AIDS, cancer and, the most striking, that he was murdered by poisoning by the Israeli government, an accusation the Israelis strongly deny.
Polonium-210 is also the chemical which was found to be the cause of death for Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in Britain in 2006. It is a radioactive chemical that is only legally used in medical and military practices.
Mr Arafat’s body is to be reburied with a full military honour ceremony on the same day he is exhumed and results of the investigation are likely to take several months to come to light.