The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004, may have lost his life as a result of being poisoned by polonium, according to a study ordered by Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based TV channel reported on Wednesday.
An investigation conducted by Swiss scientists at Lausanne University revealed extraordinarily high levels of polonium in Arafat’s personal belongings, including clothing, his trademark kaffiyeh (head scarf) and a toothbrush, Al Jazeera said.
Polonium, a radioactive element, occurs naturally in the environment in minute amounts, but is extremely toxic when ingested at higher levels.
“I can confirm to you that we measured an unexplained, elevated amount of unsupported (unnatural) polonium-210 in the belongings of Mr. Arafat that contained stains of biological fluids,” the head of the institute, Dr. Francois Bochud, told the TV channel.
The scientists said they needed to exhume Arafat’s body to examine his bones and the soil from the grave in order to prove the poisoning theory.
Arafat’s widow, Suha, has appealed to Palestinian Authority to obtain permission for the exhumation.
“We got into this very, very painful conclusion, but at least this removes this great burden on me, on my chest,” Suha told Al-Jazeera. "At least I’ve done something to explain to the Palestinian people, to the Arab and Muslim generation all over the world, that it was not a natural death, it was a crime.”
Arafat died in a French military hospital on November 11, 2004, and was buried on the grounds of his West Bank headquarters. There were rumors that he had died because of cirrhosis of the liver, cancer and even AIDS.
Patrice Mangin, the head of the Institute of Legal Medicine at Lausanne University Swiss, who was involved in the test, told the TV channel that scientists ruled out the possibility of Arafat’s suffering fatal diseases.
“There was no liver cirrhosis, apparently no traces of cancer, no leukemia,” Mangin said, adding that there was also no sign of HIV or AIDS.
According to the TV report, Arafat suffered weight loss, severe vomiting and diarrhea shortly before his death which can be signs of polonium poisoning.
Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian security agent who died in 2006 in London from polonium poisoning, had the same symptoms, Al Jazeera said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has ordered Arafat’s body to be exhumed for examination, Fatah spokesman Faiz Abu Aytah told RIA Novosti.
“An exhumation will be conducted on Abbas’ instructions. We are ready to cooperate with any party that will help determine the cause of martyr Arafat’s death,” he said.
Nabil Abu Rdineh, spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, said there was “no religious or political reason preventing the inquest or the exhumation.”