Swiss Report Supports Theory Arafat Was Poisoned


arafat poisoned ?Nine years of mystery and intrigue surrounding the death of Yasir Arafat, the symbol of the Palestinian national struggle, took a contentious turn on Wednesday with the publication of a forensics report by Swiss scientists that lends support to the theory that Mr. Arafat died of poisoning with radioactive polonium-210.

Al Jazeera, the Arabic television channel based in Qatar, reported the findings of the Swiss team and posted what it said was a copy of the team’s 108-page report on its website.

The news channel has been instrumental in advancing the theory that Mr. Arafat was poisoned with polonium, a radioactive element that became widely known following the death of Alexander V. Litvinenko, a former K.G.B. agent who became a critic of the Russian government. He died in London in 2006 after drinking tea contaminated with the substance.

The University of Legal Medicine in Lausanne, Switzerland, said that it was approached by a reporter for Al Jazeera English on behalf of Suha Arafat, Mr. Arafat’s widow, in January 2012. Providing a travel bag containing personal effects that Mr. Arafat took with him to the French military hospital where he died, Al Jazeera commissioned a forensic examination. The Swiss institute found “an unexplained, elevated amount of unsupported polonium-210” in Mr. Arafat’s belongings and recommended further testing. Those results led to an exhumation a year ago.

Along with the Swiss, Russian and French teams were assigned to test the remains in an effort to resolve questions about Mr. Arafat’s death in November 2004 at age 75, given the suspicions among his supporters and others that he had been killed by agents of Israel or by Palestinian rivals.

The latest Swiss report, dated Nov. 5, said that taking into account analytical limitations such as the time elapsed since Mr. Arafat’s death, its findings “moderately support the proposition” that the death was the consequence of polonium poisoning.

Yet last month the head of the Russian team told the Interfax news agency that Russian experts had found no traces of polonium in Mr. Arafat’s remains. Soon after, the Russians denied having made any statement.

The French investigators have not yet released any findings, lawyers for Ms. Arafat in Paris said Wednesday evening.

In an interview broadcast on Al Jazeera on Wednesday, Ms. Arafat, who received a copy of the Swiss report, said its findings proved that her husband had been assassinated. “I am mourning Yasir again,” she said.

She said she would not stop fighting until the perpetrators were brought to justice, but added, “I don’t know who did it.”

Ms. Arafat’s relations with the current Palestinian leadership are notoriously hostile.

The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Tuesday that the Swiss report had been received by the special Palestinian committee investigating Mr. Arafat’s death and that the Russian team had handed in its results on Nov. 2. There was no indication of when the French results were expected. “Experts are studying the results in order to inform the Palestinian people of the findings,” Wafa stated, without elaboration.

Ghassan al-Shaka’a, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee from Nablus, in the West Bank, said that it was now confirmed that Mr. Arafat was poisoned but that “we need to know who planned, who instigated, who implemented” the alleged killing. He said the Palestinian Authority had decided to postpone revealing the test results for a few months for “political reasons.”

Israel has consistently denied any involvement in Mr. Arafat’s death. Yigal Palmor, spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, said the Swiss results were “inconclusive, at best,” adding that even Ms. Arafat “understands that the evidence is so scant she cannot point the finger at anybody.”

NY Times