Ma’an News Agency reports: The Palestinian Authority has agreed to set up an international investigation into the death of President Yasser Arafat, and has no problem exhuming his body from a Ramallah grave, officials said Wednesday.
Arafat’s widow Suha called on Tuesday for the Palestinian leader’s body to be examined after Al Jazeera reported that a Swiss institute found his personal belongings contained abnormal levels of a rare and radioactive element called polonium.
Arafat, who fell ill while besieged in his compound in Ramallah during the second intifada, eventually passed away in a Paris hospital in 2004. Mystery surrounded his cause of death.
“There is no religious or political reason that prevents further investigation into this matter, including exhuming his body by a specialized and trusted party at the request and approval of his family,” presidency spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh told official media Wafa.
PLO official Saeb Erekat said the PA intends to form an international committee to investigate Arafat’s death, along the lines of the UN tribunal into the killing of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri.
Erekat said two committees, one formed of government ministers and another from Fatah’s central committee, have already been investigating Arafat’s death since 2004.
But Erekat expressed appreciation for the new revelations in the Al Jazeera report, saying “After finishing with the family and religious procedures, there is no doubt that an international committee will be formed to investigate reasons of Arafat’s death and sides involved.”
Abu Rudeineh told Wafa President Mahmoud Abbas had ordered one of the existent committees to follow up on the new reports and seek assistance from Arab and international experts in order to establish the cause of death.
“I want the world to know the truth about the assassination of Yasser Arafat,” Suha Arafat told the Qatar-based satellite TV channel, without making any direct accusations but noting that Israel and the United States saw him as an obstacle to peace.
The findings stirred up old Palestinian suspicions Israel was behind the death of the 75-year-old ex-guerrilla it had shunned after peace talks collapsed into bloodshed in 2000.
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, who report for Haaretz, conducted their own investigation into the cause of Arafat’s death and were unable to reach any firm conclusions. “But with Al-Jazeera, we have now real evidence leading to a sensational conclusion, and we must admit, in this case, it makes us more than just a little bit jealous.”
Toxicity tests conducted on Arafat in Paris brought up nothing. The report itself shows the results of blood tests taken from Etienne Louvet, sent to the toxicity lab of the Paris Police and the military hospital. Etienne Louvet was the code name that the doctors used whenever they send Arafat’s blood tests, in order to keep the results of the tests secret.
The report mentions the names of the different poisons they tried to pinpoint (in order to find poison, it’s necessary to look for it specifically) – but Polonium 210, the poison discovered in the Al-Jazeera investigation, wasn’t on the list at the French lab.
Nevertheless, Arafat’s relatives and associates claimed over and over again that he was poisoned, and that Israel had not hidden its intention of getting to him. And again – until today, eight years after his death – we had not succeeded in finding any evidence to back up that claim.
And then along comes the Al-Jazeera investigation presenting new evidence that the Polonium 210 poison was indeed found on Arafat’s personal belongings from his last days alive.
Even the Swiss investigators admitted that in order to get to the incisive truth that Arafat died of radioactive poisoning, it would be necessary to carry outs tests on his body or on the earth covering him (Arafat is buried in Ramallah).
Suha Arafat has already demanded that the Palestinian Authority dig up the body – and the PA agreed on Wednesday to the request.