Tuesday, August 28th, 2012
French prosecutors have launched an official inquiry into the 2004 murder of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, after his family claimed he had been poisoned.
Arafat’s family initiated legal action in France last month over claims the Palestinian leader died of radioactive polonium poisoning.
His widow, Suha Arafat, has asked that her late husband’s body be exhumed for further testing. The Palestinian Authority has already consented to the procedure.
Earlier, a nine-month investigation conducted by Al-Jazeera concluded that Arafat’s personal belongings contained abnormally high levels of polonium, a rare and highly radioactive element. The items, including his clothing, his toothbrush, and even his iconic kaffiyeh, were supplied to Al-Jazeera by his widow. They were then analyzed at the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland.
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 investigation in 2005 ruled out poisoning, as well as cancer and AIDS.
Israel has consistently denied the allegations.
Polonium is a highly toxic substance which is rarely found outside military and scientific circles, and was used to kill former Russian security officer Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.