Late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
France has demanded that the Palestinian Authority promise that it would not impose the death penalty on anyone found guilty of killing former PLO leader Yasser Arafat, a senior Fatah official said on Wednesday.
Tawfik Tirawi, member of the Fatah Central Committee and head of the Palestinian commission of inquiry into the death of Arafat, revealed that the French demand was relayed to the PA about three weeks ago.
Tirawi’s statement came in response to reports that French judges have completed their investigation into the circumstances surrounding Arafat’s death in November 2004.
“We received a letter from the French authorities 20 days ago asking us to promise that we wouldn’t impose the death sentence or execute the killer of Yasser Arafat,” Tirawi said in an interview with the Voice of Palestine radio station. “They asked that we reply to their letter within 15 days.”
Tirawi said that after holding consultations with President Mahmoud Abbas and the PA Justice Ministry, he informed the French authorities that the Palestinian judicial system is an independent body. “We asked the French authorities to brief us about the results of the investigation into the death of Arafat before asking us to make the pledge concerning the death sentence,” he added.
Tirawi denounced France’s position as “negative.” He said that the French authorities have failed to contact the Palestinians ever since samples were taken from Arafat’s remains more than a year ago.
“The only information we get is through the media,” he complained. He expressed his belief that the French authorities were trying to “hide something.”
Tirawi rejected earlier reports published by French and investigators, who maintained that Arafat had died of natural causes.
Tirawi and other Palestinians continue to accuse Israel of being behind the “poisoning” of Arafat. They are convinced that someone close to Arafat was complicit in the purported Israeli scheme.
French judges reexamining the evidence surrounding the death of Arafat have concluded their investigations, AFP reported Wednesday.
“The judges have closed their dossier and it was sent to the prosecutor on April 30,” the prosecutor’s office in the Paris suburb of Nanterre said.
The prosecutor now has three months to prepare his submissions on whether to dismiss the case or submit it to the court.