The widow of Yasser Arafat on Friday agreed to have her husband’s remains tested for poisoning by polonium, AFP reported.
The news agency quoted Darcy Christen, a spokesman for a radiology lab at the Lausanne University Hospital Centre, as saying that the Swiss facility was “waiting for a formal, written letter from the lawyer” before heading to Ramallah to test Arafat’s remains for radioactive poisoning.
“Time is of the essence, you could say it’s a question of weeks, not months, because the traceability of polonium diminishes by half every 138 days,” Christen was quoted as saying.
In July, Suha Arafat formally requested a French investigation into the Palestinian leader’s death, bringing a complaint of assassination weeks after raising new suspicions that he was poisoned before his 2004 death in a French military hospital.
Earlier this month, Palestinian authorities gave final approval for Arafat’s body to be exhumed. In recent tests of Arafat’s belongings requested by Suha and the Arab satellite network Al-Jazeera, a Swiss lab detected elevated traces of polonium-210 — a rare and highly lethal substance — but said the findings were inconclusive and that Arafat’s bones would have to be tested. Questions remain about the results of any additional tests after so long.
The announcement followed weeks of zigzagging on the autopsy issue by officials in the Palestinian Authority. Their conflicting positions and hesitation triggered speculation they were trying to quietly kill the investigation.
Arafat died in a French military hospital on Nov. 11, 2004, a month after falling ill at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where he spent the last three years of his life under Israeli siege.
French doctors have said he died of a massive stroke and suffered from a blood condition known as disseminated intravascular coagulation. The records were inconclusive about what brought about the condition, which has numerous possible causes.
The Palestinians, who from the start claimed Arafat was killed, launched an investigation that went nowhere and was dormant for years until last month’s developments.
Tawfik Tirawi, the chief Palestinian official investigating Arafat’s death, said the Palestinians asked the Swiss lab for help. The lab confirmed that.
Several senior Palestinian officials, including Arafat nephew Nasser al-Kidwa, have claimed Arafat was poisoned by Israel, without presenting evidence. Israel has denied any involvement.
Palestinian officials have said they want an international probe that has the authority to summon Israeli officials. The Palestinian Authority also asked the Arab League to help pursue an international investigation. The League has said it would seek a UN investigation and would decide on the details in September.