Arafat's widow to bring case in France over death

Mrs. Arafat will launch a court case following Al Jazeera report suggesting the late Palestinian leader was poisoned.

By REUTERS
July 10, 2012 18:02
2 minute read.
Widow of Yasser Arafat, Sufa Arafat [file]

Widow of Yasser Arafat, Sufa Arafat 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)

 
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PARIS - Yasser Arafat's widow will launch a court case in France into the unexplained death of the iconic Palestinian leader eight years ago after a media report suggested he may have been poisoned, her lawyer said on Tuesday.

Allegations of foul play have long surrounded Arafat's demise in November 2004 after French doctors who treated him in his final days said they could not establish the cause of death.

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The controversy was reignited by an Al Jazeera expose last week in which the Swiss Radiophysics Institute said it found "surprisingly" high levels of polonium-210 on Arafat's clothing - the same substance used to kill former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

The Swiss institute said, however, that the symptoms described in the Palestinian president's medical reports were not consistent with the radioactive agent.

"Madame Arafat hopes that the authorities will be able to establish the exact circumstances of her husband's death and uncover the truth, so that justice can be done," lawyer Pierre-Olivier Sud said in a statement.

The exact nature of the legal complaint by Arafat's 48-year-old widow, Suha, is yet to be determined but it is expected to be presented before the end of this month, the lawyer said.

It would be presented against a person or persons unknown, the lawyer said in a statement.

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The Palestinian Authority agreed last week to a request from Suha Arafat - who lives in Malta and France - to exhume her husband's body from a limestone mausoleum in the West Bank city of Ramallah for an autopsy.

"I want the world to know the truth about the assassination of Yasser Arafat," Suha Arafat told Al Jazeera, without making any direct accusations, but noting that both Israel and the United States regarded him as an obstacle to peace.

Allegations of foul play - and of Palestinian involvement in it - have long marked factional fighting among Palestinians.

The latest revelation coincides with renewed tensions within Arafat's Fatah movement, now headed by his successor President Mahmoud Abbas, and between Fatah and Hamas, the Islamist movement which controls the Gaza Strip

Tunisia has called for a ministerial meeting of the Arab League to meet to discuss Arafat's death.

Last weekend, Abbas met French President Francois Hollande and asked him to help form an international investigative committee through the U.N. Security Council, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Al Jazeera.

Confined by Israel to his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah for three years after a Palestinian uprising erupted, an ailing Arafat collapsed in October 2004.

Looking weak and thin - and telling aides "God willing, I will be back" - he was airlifted to a military hospital in France, where he slipped into a coma and died on Nov. 11, 2004.

Rumours circulated that he had died from anything from stomach cancer to poisoning to AIDS. French officials, citing privacy laws, refused to give details of the nature of his illness.

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