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

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. Professor Regan told the BBC that the data did not disprove the view that Arafat was poisoned, though by the same token it was impossible to draw definitive conclusions about the Palestinian leader’s cause of death. But Arafat’s widow, Suha Arafat, appears convinced that her husband’s death was “a real crime, a political assassination”. Speaking to Reuters news agency, the late Palestinian statesman’s wife said the Swiss report “scientifically proved that [Yasser Arafat] didn’t die a natural death and we have scientific proof that this man was killed”. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry of Israel described the Swiss forensic investigation as “more soap opera than science”.

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