AL JAZEERA (Qatar), XINHUA (China)
RAMALLAH - The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has given the go ahead to exhume the body of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat this Wednesday after a special investigation by Al Jazeera revealed unusually high levels of deadly polonium on his personal effects. Arafat's widow Suha Arafat asked for the exhumation after the report was published on Tuesday evening.
"There is no religious or political reason preventing the inquest and the exhumation," said Nabil Abu Rdineh, a spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, according to Chinese press agency Xinhua. Abu Rdineh also said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had ordered the committee investigating Arafat's death to assess the new information.
A Swiss laboratory in Lausanne that analyzed Arafat's medical files and his personal effects for Al Jazeera found unusually high levels of a radioactive isotope called polonium, which is deadly even in small doses, hinting that he may have been poisoned to death.
"I can confirm to you that we measured an unexplained, elevated amount of unsupported polonium-210 in the belongings of Mr. Arafat that contained stains of biological fluids," Dr. Francois Bochud, director of the institute, told Al Jazeera.
Reactions to the news on Twitter showed that Palestinians had been sceptical all along about the official storyline of Arafat's death.
I can't remember the last time I spoke about Arafat's death with a Palestinian who did not think he was poisoned.— Yousef Munayyer (@YousefMunayyer) July 3, 2012
PLO's Hanan Ashrawi: "never doubted" Arafat did not die of natural causes, says this makes it no less "shocking".— Nicole Johnston (@nicolealjazeera) July 3, 2012
The Al Jazeera documentary was published following a nine-month investigation into the causes of Arafat's death in 2004. He was transfered from the West Bank to a hospital in Paris, France after two years of Israeli siege, but his sudden sickness was unexplained and he was buried without an autopsy in Ramallah.
Polonium was infamously used to poison Russian spy-turned-dissdent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006, but scientific research into its effects is scarce because recorded cases are so rare.
Al Jazeera has segmented the documentary into several parts that are gradually being released.
Arafat killed by polonium? I would need a lot more info on chain of custody of clothes before i believed that. aljazeera.com/programmes/wha…— Dan Murphy (@bungdan) July 3, 2012