Palestinians seeking cause of Arafat’s death


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is willing to have Yasser Arafat’s body exhumed to investigate allegations that the former Palestinian leader was poisoned, his spokesman said today.

Arafat’s wife Suha said in an interview on Al-Jazeera television yesterday that she requested an autopsy be performed on her husband’s remains to search for traces of a poisonous substance. She said a Swiss laboratory recently detected high levels of the radioactive isotope polonium in Arafat’s clothing, which have been in storage since his 2004 death. At the time, Suha Arafat refused to allow an autopsy.

“The Palestinian Authority was and remains fully prepared to cooperate and to provide all the facilities needed to reveal the real causes that led to the death of the late president,” Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in an e-mailed statement. “There are no religious or political reasons that preclude research on this issue, including an examination of the late president’s remains by a reliable national medical body, upon request and approval by his family.”

Arafat, who founded the Palestine Liberation Organization, died in a French hospital at the age of 75. He is buried below a glass tomb adjacent to Abbas’s office complex in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Doctors at the Percy military hospital in Clamart, France, said Arafat suffered from a brain hemorrhage and fell into a coma before he died. Palestinians have accused Israel of causing Arafat’s death, though no conclusive evidence has been presented publicly. Israel denied killing Arafat.

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.