Yasser Arafat’s exhumation may answer questions over his death

The Guardian reports: Within the guarded walls of the Palestinian presidential compound, known as the Muqata, the body of Yasser Arafat lies inside a gleaming limestone and glass mausoleum. It is here that political figures, dignitaries, devotees and tourists come to pay their respects to a man who was revered and reviled across the world as the face of the Palestinian struggle for decades.

The mausoleum is closed to visitors for renovations to the Muqata. So the next group to cross the smooth pale flagstones between the compound’s southern gate and Arafat’s tomb is likely to comprise three French judges, expected to arrive in Ramallah in the next few weeks. Their mission is to investigate allegations that the former Palestinian president did not die of natural causes but was murdered (video), poisoned by agents acting for Israel.

There has been no shortage of rumours and theories about the cause of Arafat’s death in November 2004, following a sudden deterioration in his health after more than two years of virtual incarceration inside the Ramallah compound. Claims that the 75-year-old leader had Aids or cirrhosis were swiftly discounted, but suggestions that he was poisoned have proved more durable. Now scientists are attempting to prove or quash such theories.

The exhumation of Arafat’s body will be a delicate and emotive undertaking, given the deep affection and respect in which he continues to be held by Palestinians almost eight years after his death. The corpse will be removed from the tomb and transferred to a hospital in Ramallah for samples to be taken and tested for the presence of toxins. [Continue reading…]

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