The nephew of Yasser Arafat said Thursday that the late president’s body must be exhumed if necessary to determine the true cause of his death.
Nasser al-Qudwa, who heads the Yasser Arafat Foundation, met with President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris on Thursday and discussed new allegations that Arafat was poisoned with the radioactive element polonium-210 in 2004.
Al-Qudwa told Ma’an that Arafat’s family and the Palestinian people were convinced the iconic leader was murdered. He said an investigation must be carried out to establish who was responsible for Arafat’s death, involving international institutions and exhuming the body if necessary.
A Swiss institute that examined clothing provided by Arafat’s widow Suha as part of an Al Jazeera expose said it found “surprisingly” high levels of polonium-210, though symptoms described in the president’s medical reports were not consistent with the radioactive agent.
The Palestinian Authority said it would approve Suha Arafat’s request to exhume Arafat’s body from a limestone mausoleum in Ramallah for an autopsy.
‘Lack of cooperation’ hampered earlier inquiry
Palestinian Legislative Council member Hasan Khreisheh said Thursday that Palestinian and Arab officials had refused to cooperate with a 2004 inquiry into Arafat’s death.
Khreisheh, who was head of the PLC in 2004, was involved in setting up a special committee to investigate the cause of Arafat’s death.
The two-month investigation, headed by Abdul Jawad Saleh, failed to reach a conclusion because officials, as well as Arafat’s family and those close to him, refused to disclose information, Khreisheh said.
Arafat’s doctor Ashraf Kurd and Egyptian and Tunisian doctors refused to make any statements to the commission because of pressure by authorities in their countries, Khreisheh added.
The evidence suggested a regional agreement not to support an investigation into the cause of Arafat’s death, the PLC member said.
Chief Islamic judge approves autopsy
Taysir Tamimi, the Palestinian Authority’s chief Islamic judge, said Thursday that Arafat’s body should be exhumed to determine the reason for his death.
Tamimi was present when Arafat died in a military hospital in France on Nov. 11, 2004. He told Ma’an that when he washed Arafat four hours after he died the president was still bleeding from his head and several parts of his body.
The sheikh said one of Arafat’s doctors told him at the time that the bleeding was an indication of poison which prevented the blood from clotting. He pointed to Israeli threats to Arafat in 2004 as a sign that the leader was killed by Israel.
In 2003, Israel’s security cabinet decided to “remove” Arafat, without elaborating publicly on the precise action it planned to take. An Israeli newspaper quoted Avi Dichter, Israel’s spy chief at the time, as saying that it would be better to kill Arafat than exile him.
In 1997, Israeli assassins were caught trying to poison Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal in Jordan. Israel is also suspected in the 2010 death in a Dubai hotel room of a Hamas commander, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who UAE authorities said had been drugged.