Yasser Arafat’s body to be exhumed after eight years as his wife calls for murder investigation
French officials will exhume former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s remains next month in a bid to discover if he was murdered.
A team of medical and forensic experts will arrive in the West Bank city of Ramallah on November 24 to carry out the gruesome operation.
The exhumation comes after Arafat’s widow Suha asked judges in France this summer to launch a murder probe into her husband’s death.
Investigation: Yasser Arafat (right) in 2004 with his wife Suha who alleges he was poisoned
Mrs Arafat, 48, believes her husband’s death at a Paris hospital eight years ago was caused by the radioactive toxin polonium.
She claims he was poisoned because he was an ‘obstacle to peace’.
Mrs Arafat launched her legal action after Swiss scientists who analysed her husband’s belongings said in June that they found ‘surprisingly high’ levels of the lethal substance on his clothes.
Palestinian authorities have now given final approval for Arafat’s body to be exhumed so further tests can be carried out.
Polonium-210 was also used to kill former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.
Poisoned: Alexander Litvinenko was killed by polonium-210 in 2006
Mrs Arafat’s lawyer Pierre-Olivier Sud told the French media: ‘Suha Arafat hopes that the authorities will be able to establish the exact circumstances of her husband’s death and uncover the truth, so that justice can be done.
‘She and her family want the truth and nothing but the truth. There is no question of any ideological or political exploitation.’
Mrs Arafat also told arabic TV channel Al Jazeera in July that both the US and Israel had regarded her husband as ‘an obstacle to peace’.
She added: ‘I want the world to know the truth about the assassination of Yasser Arafat.’
Scene of the crime? Percy military hospital, where Mr Arafat died
Arafat had been confined by Israel to his headquarters in Ramallah when he fell ill in October 2004.
He was jetted to the Percy military hospital near Paris, telling aides before he left: ‘God willing, I will be back.’
But less than a month after arriving, he slipped into a coma and died on November 11th, 2004.
Doctors who treated him said at the time he may have died of a blood clotting disorder and ruled out poisoning.
French daily Le Monde reported at the time that it had ‘very good sources’ who had revealed he died of a condition called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC).
In mourning: Suha Arafat with then French Prime Minister Jean Pierre Raffarin (right) at the funeral
It described the condition as ‘the complete disruption of the mechanisms which normally assure proper blood clotting and can lead to major internal bleeding and possible death’.
The paper quoted one doctor as saying: ‘We also worked on the question of poisoning, using sophisticated techniques, before concluding with a negative.’