Yasser Arafat death: French investigators 'rule out' poisoning

Report appears to contradict findings of a Swiss team which 'supported' possibility the Palestinian leader was killed with polonium 210

Click to follow
The Independent Online

French forensic experts investigating the death of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have concluded that he died of natural causes, ruling out polonium 210 poisoning, according to reports.

Arafat’s widow Suha Arafat has been in Paris with her lawyers to hear the evidence, and sources separately told the AFP News Agency and Al Jazeera that she has now been presented with a report.

“The analysis cannot lead us to affirm that Arafat died of polonium 210 poisoning,” sources who saw the report said, adding that it “goes in the sense of a natural death”.

The findings seem to contradict those of a Swiss team of investigators, whose report last month said Arafat’s remains contained between 18 and 36 times the normal background levels of polonium.

They “moderately supported” the theory that poisoning was the cause of death, and the report led to Arafat’s widow calling his death “the crime of the century”.

Samples of the former leader’s remains were provided to French, Russian and Swiss investigative teams when his body was exhumed from a mausoleum in Ramallah in November 2012.

Arafat died at a French military hospital near Paris in November 2004, with doctors unable to ascribe a cause of death, but his window then refused to allow an autopsy to be carried out.

Last month a leading British biomedical scientist said it was “highly unlikely” that Arafat died from a lethal dose of radioactive polonium.

Professor Nicholas Priest, who formerly headed the biomedical research unit of the Atomic Energy Authority in Britain, told The Independent that, while poisoning by polonium “cannot be totally ruled out”, the symptoms were very different from those of the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London in 2006.

He pointed out that polonium would be naturally produced in the bones of anyone buried as a by-product of the bones absorbing lead from the soil.