French team of experts: Arafat not poisoned

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Sources related to the French investigation examining the causes of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's death, told French news media Tuesday that the experts state Arafat had not been poisoned. This conclusion rejects a statement by a Swiss research institute, claiming unusual amounts of polonium found in the samples taken from Arafat's body in November 2012 indicate moderate feasibility he was poisoned.

File photo of Yasser Arafat in 2001.
Image: Remy Steinegger.

Through the years many Palestinians have blamed Israel poisoning Arafat. Mr. Yigal Palmor, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said the French findings were "not a surprise" and "Israel is not involved in any way. There's no way the Palestinians can stick this on us. It's unreasonable and unsupported by facts. We will see yet another round of accusations, but there's no proof."

The head of the team investigating the causes of Arafat's death from the Palestinian authority, Tawfiq Tirawi, was interviewed on Tuesday on Palestine Today television and said "I promise that the next press conference will be the last, and will cast into the light of day everyone who perpetrated, took part in or conspired in the matter".

Yasser Arafat led the Palestine Liberation Organization for 35 years and was the first president of the Palestinian Authority. In October 2004 at the age of 75 the Palestinian leader's condition suddenly deteriorated. He was moved from his residence in Ramallah, in the West Bank, to a French military hospital for medical care. Arafat died at the hospital in November 2004. The official death report stated a stroke, caused by blood disorder, was the cause of death. The doctors didn't find the cause of the blood disorder. Arafat's widow, Mrs. Suha Arafat, didn't want an autopsy of his body.

In July 2012, a documentary program aired on the Al Jazeera network showing the findings of Swiss scientists who speculated Arafat died from polonium poisoning, after traces of this material were found in his belongings. By his wife's request, 60 samples were taken from his body to three research institutes — in France, Switzerland, and Russia — to examine for the cause of death. Also, Mrs. Arafat filed a civil complaint in France leading to an investigation by the French prosecutor.