'Polonium found on Arafat's clothing was planted'

Analyst tells 'Post' high levels of radioactive poison reportedly found on Arafat's belongings likely placed there much later.

By
July 5, 2012 22:03
2 minute read.
Deceased PLO chairman Yasser Arafat

Yasser Arafat 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The high levels of the radioactive poison polonium reportedly found on the belongings of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat indicate that the toxin was planted on them long after his death, a senior counterterrorism analyst told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.

Dr. Ely Karmon, of the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya’s Institute for Counterterrorism, is a specialist in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear terrorism.

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Responding to an Al Jazeera report published Wednesday – which said that researchers at the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland, discovered abnormally high levels of polonium on Arafat’s belongings – Karmon said that the half-life of the substance would make it impossible for polonium to have been discovered at such high levels if it had been used to kill Arafat eight years ago.

According to the Al Jazeera report, polonium has a half-life of 138 days, “meaning that half of the substance decays roughly every four-and-a-half months.”

And yet, eight years after Arafat’s death, the Swiss scientists reported finding polonium levels of 54 millibecquerels (mBq) and 180 millibecquerels on his belonging, considered to be high levels.

“If it had been used for poisoning, minimal levels should be seen now. Yet much higher levels were found. Someone planted the polonium much later,” Karmon said.

“Because of the half-life of the substance, the conclusion is that the polonium is much more fresh,” he added.

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Karmon added that the Al Jazeera report raised additional unanswered questions. Referring to the fact that Arafat’s widow, Suha, provided the researchers with Arafat’s belongings, Karmon asked: “If Suha Arafat safeguarded these contaminated materials, why, after seven years, was she not poisoned too? She touched these things and Arafat in hospital.”

In 2006, ex-Russian spy turned dissident Alexander Litvinenko died after being poisoned with polonium, according to a British investigation. British authorities analyzed a restaurant, a cab and a hotel used by Litvinenko to trace the poison.

“Did Al Jazeera check the home of Suha Arafat in Paris and Malta where she kept the items for traces of polonium, as the British did in their investigation?” Karmon asked.

Karmon also cited an article published Wednesday by the French daily Le Figaro which, he said, reported that the symptoms found in Arafat’s French medical file do not fit a polonium poisoning.

After Arafat’s death, “why did neither Suha nor the PA agree to release the French hospital’s medical file?” he asked.

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