French investigators prepare for Yasser Arafat exhumation, just days away
The body of former leader Yasser Arafat will be exhumed in Ramallah next week, on suspicions that he was poisoned by Israel. Arafat died in a military hospital in the Paris suburbs in 2004.
Forensic experts from France, Switzerland and Russia will perform Tuesday’s exhumation, each taking independent samples for analysis, according to Tawfiq Tirawi, head of the Palestinian investigation committee.
Additional investigative work, such as interviewing witnesses, will require the presence of both Palestinian and French experts.
“All the testimonies of the Palestinians must be collected by Palestinian prosecutors in the presence of French investigators,” Tirawi told journalists in Ramallah.
“The tomb will be opened on Tuesday and experts will take samples the same day within a matter of a few hours,” he added.
The reburial ceremony, to include full military honours, will take place later in the day in Arafat’s mausoleum.
Speculation has surrounded Arafat’s death since a quick deterioration in health led to his passing away at the age of 75.
French doctors at Percy military hospital were unable to explain what killed the former leader and did not perform a port-mortem.
Rumours circulated that Israel had intentionally poisoned Arafat.
The rumours gained ground earlier this year, when Swiss researchers found high levels of polonium-210 on Arafat’s toothbrush, clothing and headscarf. The radioactive element is the same poison used to assassinate Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.
The discovery pushed Araft’s widow to lodge a formal complaint, and French authorities subsequently opened a murder investigation into Arafat’s death in August.