Bloomberg News

Arafat Remains in Ramallah Are Exhumed in Poisoning Probe

November 27, 2012

Arafat Remains in Ramallah Are Exhumed in Poisoning Probe

A man stands behind tarpaulin erected around the mausoleum housing the former Palestinian president and Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat, in the West Bank city of Ramalla. Photographer: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images

The remains of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat were exhumed today as part of a probe into allegations he was poisoned.

Arafat’s tomb in the West Bank city of Ramallah was opened at about 5 a.m., according to a senior Palestinian security official, who was at the site and declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. It will take three months to get the results, according to Abdullah Al Basheer, a member of the investigating team.

Arafat’s wife Suha requested an autopsy after reports in July that a Swiss laboratory had detected high levels of the radioactive isotope polonium in Arafat’s clothes, which have been in storage since his death in 2004. Palestinians have accused Israel of causing Arafat’s death, though no conclusive evidence has been presented. Israel denies killing him.

“We are convinced that Israel did it, but we are after proof in order to take Israel to the International Criminal Court,” Tawfiq Tirawi, head of the Palestinian investigation committee into Arafat’s death, said in Ramallah today.

Palestinians planned to have the process of opening Arafat’s tomb medically and legally supervised by teams of experts from Switzerland, France and Russia, Tiwari told reporters on Nov. 24. The tomb would then be closed again within a few hours after testing, and no member of the Arafat family would be present, he said.

Forensic Test

“A Palestinian forensic did the testing according to the instruction of the teams,” Hani Abdeen, the Palestinian Authority’s health minister, said today. The site of Arafat’s resting place was covered with blue tarpaulins, obscuring it from view from passersby.

Arafat, who founded the Palestine Liberation Organization, died in a French hospital at the age of 75. Doctors at the Percy military hospital in Clamart, France, said he suffered from a brain hemorrhage and fell into a coma before he died.

Polonium, which had been stirred into a cup of tea, was identified as the substance that killed Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent who became a critic of the Russian government. Litvinenko died in 2006 after being poisoned in London.

To contact the reporter on this story: Fadwa Hodali in Jerusalem at fhodali@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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