Yasser Arafat
Photo: Atta Awisat

Swiss experts invited to conduct Arafat autopsy

Palestinians officially ask Swiss lab for help in testing leader's exhumed remains for possible poisoning; lab says it will help only if findings won't be used for political purposes

Swiss experts have been invited to the West Bank to test Yasser Arafat's remains for possible poisoning, the chief investigator looking into the 2004 death of the Palestinian leader said Wednesday.


The announcement followed weeks of zigzagging on the autopsy issue by officials in the Palestinian Authority, the self-rule government that Arafat established. Their conflicting positions and hesitation triggered speculation they were trying to quietly kill the investigation.


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Last month, Switzerland's Institute of Radiation Physics said it had detected elevated levels of radioactive polonium-210 on stains on Arafat's clothing, reviving longstanding rumors in the Arab world that the Palestinian leader was poisoned.


However, the lab said the findings were inconclusive and that only exhuming Arafat's remains could bring possible clarity. Lab officials also said polonium decays quickly and that an autopsy would need to be done within a few months at most. They also said they needed a formal invitation to proceed with testing.


Arafat died in a French military hospital on November 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.


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.


'Findings can't turn political'

Tawfik Tirawi, the chief Palestinian official investigating Arafat's death said Wednesday, the Palestinians asked the Swiss lab for help.


"We have contacted the Swiss lab to come to Palestine to do the needed testing of the remains, the clothes and of any other belongings," said Tirawi.


The lab, in turn, said it would help investigate Arafat's death only if it receives guarantees its findings will not be used for political purposes.


"We have been invited by the Palestinian National Authority and we are currently studying the most appropriate way of responding to this request," Darcy Christen, spokesman for the institute, said in an emailed reply to a Reuters question.


"Meanwhile, our main concern is to guarantee the independence, the credibility and the transparency of any involvement that we may have," Christen said.


Several senior Palestinian officials, including Arafat nephew Nasser al-Kidwa, have claimed Arafat was poisoned by Israel, without presenting evidence. Israel has vehemently denied any involvement.




פרסום ראשון: 08.08.12, 19:20
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