BEIRUT

Middle East

Late Palestinian President Arafat poisoned by polonium

Arafat en route to Paris on Oct. 29, 2004.

DOHA: Former Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004, was poisoned by polonium, according to the findings of laboratory research carried out in Switzerland and cited in an Al-Jazeera report Tuesday.

The analysis focused on biological samples taken from Arafat’s belongings given to his wife Suha by the military hospital in Paris where he died, according to Francois Bochud, head of the Institute of Radiation Physics at the University of Lausanne.

“The conclusion was that we did find some significant polonium that was present in these samples,” Bochud said.

Polonium was used to kill Russian former spy turned-Kremlin-critic Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 after drinking tea laced with the radioactive substance at a London hotel.

Arafat, died on Nov. 11, 2004, after several weeks of treatment. He had been airlifted to France from his besieged headquarters in the West Bank.

French officials, citing privacy laws, refused to reveal the precise cause of death or the nature of his condition, fuelling a host of rumors and theories as to the cause of his illness.

At the time of his death at 75, Palestinian officials charged he had been poisoned by Israel, but an inconclusive Palestinian investigation in 2005 ruled out cancer, AIDS or poisoning.

To confirm the theory that he was poisoned by polonium it would be necessary to exhume and analyze Arafat’s remains, Bochud said.

“If [Suha Arafat] really wants to know what happened to her husband [we need] to find a sample – I mean, an exhumation ... should provide us with a sample that should have a very high quantity of polonium if he was poisoned,” he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 04, 2012, on page 9.

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