AL­LE­GA­TION DE­NIED

Yasser Arafat ‘was not killed by polo­nium poi­son­ing’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By AGEN­CIES in Paris

Yasser Arafat was not the vic­tim of poi­son­ing, French foren­sic sci­en­tists con­cluded on Tues­day, coun­ter­ing a Swiss re­port on the death in 2004 of the Pales­tinian Lib­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion leader that found he was prob­a­bly killed with ra­dioac­tive polo­nium.

The French con­clu­sions were im­me­di­ately chal­lenged by his widow, Suha Arafat, who has ar­gued that the death was a po­lit­i­cal as­sas­si­na­tion by some­one close to her hus­band. A se­nior Pales­tinian of­fi­cial dis­missed the re­port as “politi­cized”.

“You can imag­ine how much I am shaken by the con­tra­dic­tions be­tween the find­ings of the best ex­perts in Europe in this do­main,” Suha Arafat, dressed in black and read­ing from a writ­ten state­ment, said at a news con­fer­ence in Paris.

“I am ac­cus­ing no one. This is in the hands of jus­tice and it is just the be­gin­ning,” she said, re­quest­ing that the Swiss re­port be made avail­able to French mag­is­trates ex­am­in­ing the case fol­low­ing a le­gal com­plaint she filed.

Sep­a­rately, the French pub­lic prose­cu­tor in­volved in that case con­firmed that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion will con­tinue.

Arafat, who signed the 1993 Oslo in­terim peace ac­cords with Is­rael but then led an up­ris­ing af­ter sub­se­quent talks broke down in 2000, died aged 75 in a French hos­pi­tal in Novem­ber 2004. His death came four weeks af­ter he fell ill af­ter a meal, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing vom­it­ing and stom­ach pains.

The of­fi­cial cause of death was a mas­sive stroke, but French doc­tors said at the time they were un­able to de­ter­mine the ori­gin of his ill­ness. No au­topsy was car­ried out.

Swiss foren­sic ex­perts stirred con­tro­versy last month by an­nounc­ing that re­sults from their tests of sam­ples taken from Arafat’s body were con­sis­tent with polo­nium poi­son­ing, while not ab­so­lute proof of the cause of death.

Teams of sci­en­tists from three coun­tries were ap­pointed to de­ter­mine whether polo­nium played a role in his death in a French mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal.

The re­port handed to Suha Arafat will not be pub­lished, but the French pub­lic prose­cu­tor’s of­fice said it con­cluded: “In sum, death was not due to poi­son­ing with Polo­nium 210.

“Mea­sure­ments of Polo­nium 210 and other ra­dioac­tive sub­stances taken from bi­o­log­i­cal sam­ples of the body are con­sis­tent with a nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­men­tal ori­gin.”

That could lead the mag­is­trates to close the case, un­less they have other in­crim­i­nat­ing ev­i­dence.

A Pales­tinian of­fi­cial dis­missed the French find­ings.

“The French re­port is politi­cized and is con­trary to all the ev­i­dence which con­firms that the pres­i­dent was killed by poi­son­ing,” se­nior Pales­tinian of­fi­cial Wasel Abu Yousef told Reuters in Ra­mal­lah.

“This re­port is an at­tempt to cover up what hap­pened in Percy hos­pi­tal,” he said of the French mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal near Paris where Arafat was taken for treat­ment in 2004.

Many Pales­tini­ans be­lieve Is­rael killed him — a charge Is­rael de­nies. Ear­lier, a Pales­tinian in­ves­ti­ga­tor said he would soon name the peo­ple he be­lieves are be­hind Arafat’s death, al­most a decade af­ter he started search­ing for sus­pects.

MAH­MOUD ZAYYAT / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A mem­ber of the Fatah move­ment’s se­cu­rity forces stands guard next to a poster of late Pales­tinian leader Yasser Arafat on Tues­day in the Pales­tinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hel­weh, in south­ern Le­banon.

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