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Controversy over death of Yasser Arafat continues - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A file photograph showing Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat gesturing during a meeting with Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery (not pictured) in Arafat's office in Ramallah Saturday 10 April 2004. (EPA)

A file photograph showing Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat gesturing during a meeting with Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery (not pictured) in Arafat’s office in Ramallah Saturday 10 April 2004. (EPA)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Controversy continues to surround the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, after a British medical journal confirmed claims by Swiss scientists that traces of radioactive substance polonium-210 were discovered on his clothes and belongings.

In a report published in British medical journal The Lancet, toxicologists published a peer review of last year’s research by Swiss scientist into a number of Arafat’s personal effects. The review endorsed their work, which discovered high levels of the radioactive substance in samples taken from the Palestinian leader’s clothes and toothbrush.

The initial investigation by experts at Luasanne University in Switzerland led to Arafat’s body being exhumed in November 2012 for further testing.

The Lancet peer review said they had uncovered traces that “support the possibility of Arafat’s poisoning with polonium-210.”

The report published in The Lancet confirms that 38 items belonging to Arafat have tested positive for polonium. These items were tested against 37 other items that belonged to the Palestinian leader but which had been kept in storage for a number of years before his death.

The report does not allege whether Arafat was deliberate poisoned as part of an assassination or whether he could have accidentally come into contact with the radioactive material.

Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat reportedly fell ill in October 2004, suffering from different symptoms including nausea and abdominal pains. His symptoms continued to worsen despite medical treatment, and he transferred from Ramallah to Percy Hospital in France. Just weeks later, he suffered acute renal failure and fell into a coma. He died on November 4, 2004, of a cerebral hemorrhage.

The Lancet report added: “Although the absence of myelosuppression [bone marrow deficiency] and hair loss does not favor acute radiation syndrome, symptoms of nausea, vomiting, fatigue, diarrhoea, and anorexia, followed by hepatic and renal failures, might suggest radioactive poisoning.”

However head of Russia’s Federal Medical-Biological Agency, Vladimir Uiba, said that forensic tests found no indications of polonium poisoning in the body of the late Palestinian leader.

Speaking to Russia’s Interfax news agency on Tuesday, Uiba said: “He [Arafat] could not have died of polonium poisoning—the Russian experts found no traces of this substance.”

Speculation abounded about the cause of death, though no postmortem was conducted owing to the objections of Arafat’s widow, Suha. However, Suha Arafat subsequently started legal proceedings in June 2013 claiming that her husband had been poisoned with polonium-210 following a 9-month Al-Jazeera investigation into his death.

Israel has repeatedly denied accusations of being behind the Palestinian leader’s death.

Polonium-210 was used to kill Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian KGB agent who died in London in 2006.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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