RAMALLAH, Palestinian (AFP) – The Palestinians want an international probe into the death of former president Yasser Arafat after an investigation showed he may have been poisoned, an official told AFP Wednesday.
“We call for the formation of an international investigation committee modelled on the international investigation committee set up to look into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri,” senior Palestinian official Saeb Erakat said.
The call came a day after the Al-Jazeera news channel broadcast the results of an investigation into the death of Arafat, who died in 2004, which showed that the Palestinian leader might have been poisoned with polonium.
The news channel said an analysis of Arafat’s belongings, which were given to his wife by the Paris hospital where he died, showed high levels of the radioactive substance.
Polonium was used to kill Russian former spy turned Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 after drinking tea laced with the substance at a London hotel.
Francois Bochud, head of the Institute of Radiation Physics at the University of Lausanne, was among the scientists who worked with Al-Jazeera to analyse Arafat’s death and test his possessions.
“The conclusion was that we did find some significant polonium that was present in these samples,” he told Al-Jazeera.
Arafat, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who led the struggle for Palestinian statehood for nearly four decades, died on November 11, 2004, following several weeks of treatment.
He had been airlifted to France from his besieged headquarters in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
French officials, citing privacy laws, refused to reveal the precise cause of death or the nature of his condition, fuelling a host of rumours and theories as to the cause of his illness.
At the time of his death at the age of 75, Palestinian officials charged he had been poisoned by long-time foe Israel, but an inconclusive Palestinian investigation in 2005 ruled out cancer, AIDS or poisoning.
To confirm the theory that he was poisoned by polonium it would be necessary to exhume and analyse Arafat’s remains, Bochud said.
“If (Suha Arafat) really wants to know what happened to her husband (we need) to find a sample — I mean, an exhumation… should provide us with a sample that should have a very high quantity of polonium if he was poisoned,” he said.