French prosecutors urge end to Yasser Arafat poisoning inquiry

Arafat funeralA government prosecutor in France has urged that a probe looking into whether the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned with a radioactive substance should be dropped, because evidence shows he died of natural causes. Arafat was the founder of Palestinian nationalist group Fatah and led the Palestine Liberation Organization for over three decades before becoming the first president of the Palestinian Authority. He died in November 2004 at the Percy military hospital in Paris, France, weeks after being transferred there from his headquarters in Ramallah, West Bank. His official records indicate that he died from a stroke, which he suffered as a result of a blood disorder known as disseminated intravascular coagulation.

However, a year-long investigation by a team of forensic pathologists at the Vaudois University Hospital Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland, suggested in 2013 that the late Palestinian leader was likely poisoned with radioactive polonium. According to the results of the study, which included tests on Arafat’s bones and on soil samples from around his corpse, there was “unexpected high activity” of polonium-210. Traces of the same substance were discovered on the personal artifacts that Arafat used during his final days in Paris. The Swiss lab followed its probe with a second set of tests, which confirmed the initial results and were eventually published in the British peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet.

The Swiss investigation prompted Arafat’s widow, Suha Arafat, to file a civil suit at a court in Nanterre, which launched a murder inquiry in August 2012. Further tests were carried out on Arafat’s belongings and his body was exhumed from its burial place in Ramallah. Tests were also carried out by the Russian Federal Medical and Biological Agency, which concluded that the late Palestinian statesman had died “not from the effects of radiation, but of natural causes”. The French inquiry was concluded in April of this year, and the results communicated to the French government prosecutor in Nanterre, Catherine Denis.

On Tuesday, Denis said she had studied the results of the medical investigation and had concluded that the polonium-210 isotopes found in Arafat’s remains and at his gravesite, were without question “of an environmental nature”. Consequently, the case should be dismissed, she said, adding that her view represented the opinion of the prosecution in the case of Arafat’s alleged poisoning. The court must now determine whether to accept the prosecutor’s advice or continue with the case, as is the wish of Arafat’s family.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 July 2015 | Permalink: http://intelnews.org/2015/07/22/01-1740/

Murder suspect to give evidence on death of ex-KGB spy in London

Alexander LitvinenkoA Russian former intelligence officer, who is accused by the British government of having killed a former KGB spy in London, has agreed to testify at a public inquiry to be held in the British capital next month. British government prosecutors believe Russian businessman Dmitri Kovtun, who worked for the KGB during the Cold War, poisoned his former colleague in the KGB, Alexander Litvinenko, in 2006. Litvinenko was an officer in the Soviet KGB and one of its successor organizations, the FSB, until 2000, when he defected with his family to the United Kingdom. He soon became known as a vocal critic of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2006, Litvinenko came down with radioactive poisoning soon after meeting Kovtun and another former KGB officer, Andrey Lugovoy, at a London restaurant. He was dead less than two weeks later.

In July of 2007, after establishing the cause of Litvinenko’s death, which is attributed to the highly radioactive substance Polonium-210, the British government officially charged 1 Kovtun and Lugovoy with murder and issued international arrest warrants for their arrest. Soon afterwards, Whitehall announced the expulsion of four Russian diplomats from London. The episode, which was the first public expulsion of Russian envoys from Britain since end of the Cold War, is often cited as marking the beginning of the worsening of relations between the West and post-Soviet Russia.

Since 2007, when they were officially charged with murder, Kovtun and Lugovoy deny the British government’s accusations, and claim that Litvinenko poisoned himself by accident while trading in illegal nuclear substances. The administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin refuses to extradite the two former KGB officers to London, and has denounced the British public inquiry into Litvinenko’s death as “a sham”. However, last March Kovtun unexpectedly wrote to the presiding judge at the inquiry, Sir Robert Owen, offering to testify via a live video link from Moscow. On Monday, Sir Robert issued a statement 2 saying an agreement had been struck between Kovtun and the inquiry, and that the Russian businessman would testify from Moscow, “most likely towards the end of next month”. Kovtun is expected to confirm that he met Litvinenko in London on the day the former KGB spy fell ill, but to insist that he had no role in poisoning him.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 16 June 2015 | Permalink: http://intelnews.org/2015/06/16/01-1715/

Russian whistleblower who died in 2012 may have been poisoned

Aleksandr PerepilichnyA Russian businessman, who died in London while assisting a Swiss probe into a massive money-laundering scheme, may have been poisoned with a substance derived from a highly toxic plant, an inquest has heard. Aleksandr Perepilichny was an influential Moscow investment banker until he fled Russia in 2009, saying that his life had been threatened after a disagreement with his business partners. A few months later, having moved to an exclusive district in Surrey, south of London, Perepilichny began cooperating with Swiss authorities who were investigating a multi-million dollar money-laundering scheme involving senior Russian government officials. The scheme, uncovered by a hedge fund firm called Hermitage Capital Management (CMP), and described by some as the biggest tax fraud in Russian history, defrauded the Russian Treasury of at least $240 million. The case made international headlines in 2009, when one of its key figures, a CMP lawyer named Sergei Magnitsky, died in mysterious circumstances while being held in a Russian prison. After Magnitsky’s death, Perepilichny said he too had been warned in no uncertain terms that his name featured on a Russian mafia hit list.

On November 10, 2012, having just returned to his luxury Surrey home after a three-day trip to France, Perepilichny went out to jog. He was found dead later that evening, having collapsed in the middle of a side street near his house. He was 44. A postmortem examination by police concluded that he had died of natural causes and pointed to the strong possibility of a heart attack. However, lawyers representing the late businessman’s family told a pre-inquest hearing on Monday that, according to new medical evidence, Perepilichny stomach was found to have traces of a poisonous plant. The shrub-like plant, known as gelsemium, is extremely rare and mostly grows in remote parts of China. One of the lawyers, Bob Moxon-Browne, claimed at the hearing that gelsemium is a “known weapon of assassination [used] by Chinese and Russian contract killers”. The Perepilichny family’s legal team said that further forensic tests are to be carried out, so that the claim of poisoning can be examined in more detail.

Arafat ‘may have been poisoned’, claims Swiss forensic report

Yasser ArafatBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A forensic investigation by Swiss researchers into the death of Yasser Arafat states that the data “moderately suggests” that the Palestinian statesman may have been poisoned with a deadly radioactive substance. The founder of Palestinian nationalist group Fatah, who led the Palestine Liberation Organization for over three decades before becoming the first president of the Palestinian Authority, passed away in November 2004 at the Percy military hospital in Paris, France. His official records indicate that he died from a stroke, which he suffered as a result of a blood disorder known as disseminated intravascular coagulation. However, a year-long investigation by a team of forensic pathologists at the Vaudois University Hospital Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland, suggests that the late Palestinian leader is likely to have been poisoned with radioactive polonium. According to the results of the study, published by Qatari news channel Al Jazeera, tests on Arafat’s bones and on soil samples from around his corpse, showed “unexpected high activity” of polonium 210. Traces of the same substance were discovered on the personal artifacts that Arafat used during his final days while in hospital in Paris. According to the study, some of the Fatah leader’s personal belongings, including his underwear and his toothbrush, contained levels of polonium that were as many as ten times higher than those in random samples used as control subjects in the study. The BBC spoke to Dr. Paddy Regan, of the University of Surrey, United Kingdom, who specializes in the detection and measurement of radiation. He said the Swiss study had delivered “a pretty strong statement” in support of the theory that Arafat was poisoned. Read more of this post

Medical review article considers Arafat poisoning theory

Yasser Arafat in Tunis in 1993By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The publication of a peer reviewed article in one of the world’s leading medical journals has reinforced the possibility that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may have died of poisoning. A nine-month study into the possible poisoning of the founder of Palestinian nationalist group Fatah, was commissioned in 2012 by Qatari news channel Al Jazeera. It was undertaken by a team of researchers at the Institut de Radiophysique (IRA) in Lausanne, Switzerland. According to the results, announced in July of that year, significant traces of the radioactive substance polonium 210 were discovered on the personal artifacts that Arafat used during his final days while in hospital in Paris, France, in 2004. According to the IRA, some of the Fatah leader’s personal belongings, including his underwear and his toothbrush, contained levels of polonium that were as many as ten times higher than those in random samples used as control subjects in the study. Shortly after the IRA study, Arafat’s wife and daughter filed an official complaint with French judicial authorities, who in turn decided to open an official murder investigation into the death of the late Palestinian national leader. Now British medical journal The Lancet has published a peer reviewed analysis of the IRA research, which outlines and endorses its conclusions. The article, entitled “Improving forensic investigation for polonium poisoning”, was authored by a group of researchers at the IRA in Lausanne and at the University Centre of Legal Medicine, which is also in Switzerland. It explains the procedures followed during the forensic investigation of  Arafat’s belongings, and examines the theory that Arafat may have been poisoned. The researchers state that the “findings [of the investigation] support the possibility of Arafat’s poisoning with 210Po”. Read more of this post

Chile launches search for suspect in alleged Neruda poisoning

Pablo Neruda (right) and Salvador AllendeBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The government of Chile has launched an official search for a United States suspect in connection with the alleged poisoning of celebrated poet Pablo Neruda. The Chilean literary icon, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971, died on September 23, 1973. His death occurred less than two weeks after a coup d’état, led by General Augusto Pinochet, toppled the democratically elected Marxist government of Salvador Allende, a close friend of Neruda. The death of the internationally acclaimed poet, who was 69 at the time, was officially attributed to prostate cancer and the effects of acute mental stress over the military coup. Earlier this year, however, an official investigation was launched into Neruda’s death following allegations that he had been murdered. The investigation was sparked by a comment made by Neruda’s personal driver, Manuel Araya, who said that the poet had been deliberately injected with poison while receiving treatment for cancer at the Clinica Santa Maria in Chilean capital Santiago. Investigators are still awaiting the completion of a complex autopsy performed on Neruda’s remains, which were exhumed in April. But the Chilean government has already issued a search order for a medical doctor —or someone pretending to be a doctor— who was allegedly on Neruda’s bedside on the night of his death. The search was issued based on comments made recently by another medical doctor, Sergio Draper, who supervised Neruda’s hospital treatment in September of 1973. Dr. Draper told government investigators that he turned over his shift that night to a “Dr. Price”, a young doctor in his late 20s, who was with Neruda in the hours leading to the poet’s death. According to Rodolfo Reyes, a lawyer representing the Neruda estate, Dr.Price’s identity remains a mystery. Read more of this post

France opens murder inquiry into Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death

Yasser ArafatBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
French prosecutors have opened an official murder inquiry into the 2004 death of Palestinian statesman Yasser Arafat, following allegations that he may have been poisoned. The decision, announced Tuesday, comes less than two months after the results of a lengthy forensic toxicological investigation raised the possibility that the Palestinian leader may have been poisoned with polonium-210. The nine-month study was commissioned by Qatari news channel Al Jazeera and was conducted by the Institut de Radiophysique (IRA) in Lausanne, Switzerland. According to the results, announced in early July, significant traces of the radioactive substance were discovered on the personal artifacts that Arafat used during his final days while in hospital in Paris, France. According to the IRA, some of the Fatah founder’s personal belongings, including his underwear and his toothbrush, contained levels of polonium that were as many as ten times higher than those in random samples used as control subjects in the study. Shortly following the IRA study, Arafat’s wife and daughter filed an official complaint with French judicial authorities, who in turn decided to open an official murder investigation. The decision was taken despite the fact that many in the medical profession appear cautious about the claims of the IRA study. But one British observer told the BBC that the French government was obliged to take the request by the two women “very seriously because of its diplomatic aspect”. Last week, IRA officials in Switzerland said they had received permission from Arafat’s family and the Palestinian National Authority to travel to Ramallah, West Bank, and examine Arafat’s exhumed remains for traces of polonium-210. Read more of this post

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