BEIRUT

Middle East

Arafat's widow lodges legal suit over poison claim

In this Friday, Oct. 29, 2004 file photo, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his wife Suha hold hands prior to Arafat's departure from his compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah in this file picture released by the Palestinian Authority.(AP Photo/Palestinian Authority, Hussein Hussein, File)

PARIS: The widow and daughter of Yasser Arafat on Tuesday launched legal action in France over claims that the veteran Palestinian leader died of radioactive polonium poisoning, their lawyer said.

Suha and Zawra Arafat lodged a civil suit for murder against persons unknown with investigating magistrates in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, said lawyer Pierre-Olivier Sur.

Yasser Arafat died at a military hospital near Paris in 2004.

Allegations that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was poisoned were resurrected earlier this month after Al-Jazeera news channel broadcast an investigation in which experts said they found high levels of polonium on his personal effects.

Polonium is a highly toxic substance which is rarely found outside military and scientific circles, and was used to kill former Russian spy turned Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 shortly after drinking tea laced with the poison.

Suha Arafat has said she backs exhuming her late husband's remains from his mausoleum in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Arafat, who led the struggle for Palestinian statehood for nearly four decades, died in a French military hospital after being airlifted there for treatment from his Ramallah headquarters.

At the time of his death, Palestinian officials alleged he had been poisoned by long-time foe Israel, but an inconclusive Palestinian investigation in 2005 ruled out poisoning, as well as cancer and AIDS.

Israel has consistently denied the allegations, accusing Suha Arafat and Palestinian officials of covering up the real reasons for the former leader's death.

 

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