Test backs theory Arafat was poisoned

Arafat died on November 11, 2004, following several weeks of treatment. Photo / Getty Images
Arafat died on November 11, 2004, following several weeks of treatment. Photo / Getty Images

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 today.

The analysis focused on biological samples taken from the late Palestinian leader'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 told Al-Jazeera.

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, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who led the struggle for Palestinian statehood for nearly four decades, died on November 11, 2004, following several weeks of treatment.

He had been airlifted to France from his besieged headquarters in the Israeli-occupied 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 rumours and theories as to the cause of his illness.

At the time of his death at the age of 75, Palestinian officials charged he had been poisoned by longtime foe 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 analyse 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.

-AFP

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