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November 27, 2021
WORLD

Al Jazeera: Yasser Arafat most likely died of polonium poisoning

Swiss scientists who conducted tests on samples taken from Yasser Arafat’s body have found at least 18 times the normal levels of radioactive polonium in his remains. The scientists said that they were confident up to an 83 percent level that the late Palestinian leader was poisoned with it, which they said “moderately supports” polonium as the cause of his death. A 108-page report by the University Centre of Legal Medicine in Lausanne, which was obtained exclusively by Al Jazeera, found unnaturally high levels of polonium in Arafat’s ribs and pelvis, and in soil stained with his decaying organs. The Swiss scientists, along with French and Russian teams, obtained the samples last November after his body was exhumed from a mausoleum in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Dave Barclay, a renowned UK forensic scientist and retired detective, told Al Jazeera that with these results he was wholly convinced that Arafat was murdered.
“Yasser Arafat died of polonium poisoning,” he said. “We found the smoking gun that caused his death. What we don’t know is who’s holding the gun at the time.” “The level of polonium in Yasser Arafat’s rib…is about 900 milibecquerels,” Barclay said. “That is either 18 or 36 times the average, depending on the literature.”
Suha Arafat, the late Palestinian leader’s widow, received a copy of the report in Paris on Tuesday. “When they came with the results, I’m mourning Yasser again,” she said. “It’s like you just told me he died.”
The Swiss report only examined the question of what killed Arafat. It did not address the question of whether he was deliberately poisoned or how.
In July 2012, Al Jazeera broadcast the results of its investigation in What Killed Arafat? The documentary triggered a French murder investigation and led to the exhumation of Arafat’s remains. Sixty samples of his body tissue were taken and twenty each distributed to the Swiss team, a French team of judges and forensic experts assigned to the murder investigation, and a Russian group invited at the request of the Palestinian Authority.
The Russians are expected to disclose their results soon. The French are not expected to release their results before the murder investigation concludes. Saad Djebbar, Suha Arafat’s lawyer, said the Swiss report was a “significant piece of the jigsaw puzzle” that could help the French murder inquiry. In terms of motive, the chief suspects would be Arafat’s Palestinian rivals or the Israeli government, his sworn enemy. Ariel Sharon, the prime minister in 2004, viewed Arafat as a “terrorist” and called his death “a turning point in Middle Eastern history”. A year earlier, then-Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said killing Arafat ‘’is definitely one of the options”. However, Israel has always vehemently denied it had anything to do with Arafat’s sickness or death and to date no evidence has emerged that implicates it. While Barclay expressed confidence in the cause of death, he said it would be a difficult case to solve. “The main problem is the timeframe,” he said. “If this was a murder that happened yesterday you’d have witnesses and cell phone records, emails, bank transfers. In a nine-year-old case that type of information will be hard to obtain.” “We can’t point a finger at anyone,” Suha Arafat said. “The French are conducting a serious investigation. It takes time.”

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