x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

French judges set to oversee exhumation of Arafat's body

Yasser Arafat's widow, Suha, asked Palestinian and Arab officials to defer to a French investigation, which was prompted by recent evidence suggesting the Palestinian leader may have been poisoned.

JERUSALEM // French investigators are expected to travel soon to the West Bank city of Ramallah to oversee the exhumation of Yasser Arafat's body.

Three judges are being sent as part of a French investigation that opened last month into the causes of the 75-year-old Palestinian leader's death at a Paris military hospital in 2004.

Arafat's widow, Suha, asked Palestinian and Arab officials to defer to the French investigation, which was prompted by recent evidence suggesting the Palestinian leader may have been poisoned.

Last month, one of Mrs Arafat's lawyers said she had opted for the French inquiry because one led by either the West Bank's Palestinian Authority (PA) or Israel would be politically charged. PA officials have indicated they would cooperate with the French investigation.

"I respectfully ask the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League to suspend all initiatives while the French justice system is looking into the case, other than to act together with them," said Mrs Arafat, adding that the French investigation "should take precedence over all other procedures".

Scientists at the Swiss-based Institute of Radiation Physics laboratory recently found on Arafat's belongings traces of polonium-210 - the same radioactive isotope that was used to kill a Russian dissident in London six year ago.

No post mortem was ever performed on Arafat. Scientists at the laboratory warned last week that further delays in examining his body could complicate the procedure.

Arafat's remains are interred in a limestone tomb at the PA presidential compound in Ramallah. It is considered a temporary resting place because Arafat wanted to be buried in Jerusalem, as the capital of the Palestinian state.

 

hnaylor@thenational.ae