French Prosecutor Says Arafat Did Not Die of Poisoning

In July 2012, Arafat’s widow, Suha, sued to demand inquiry. French experts said polonium found in Arafat's body was environmental in nature.

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An Israeli and foreigner's group visiting the grave of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, at the West Bank city of Ramallah.
A group of Israelis and others visit the grave of Yasser Arafat, in the West Bank city of Ramallah.Credit: AP

A French prosecutor has said that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat did not die of poisoning.

The prosecutor told the French news agency AFP that French experts found that Arafat was not poisoned, despite rumors to the contrary.

In July 2012, Arafat’s widow, Suha, had filed legal action, asking French authorities in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre to look into claims that her husband was poisoned. Traces of radioactive polonium were found on Arafat’s belongings. 

French prosecutors the following month opened a murder inquiry into Arafat's death.

Three investigations

After the inquiry began, Arafat’s tomb in Ramallah was opened to enable teams of French, Swiss and Russian investigators to collect samples.

Suha Arafat based her lawsuit on a 108-page report released to her by the University Center of Legal Medicine in Lausanne, Switzerland. The report maintains that the theory that Arafat was poisoned is most consistent with their results.

Russian experts have maintained that Arafat was not poisoned.

The French experts “maintain that the polonium 210 and lead 210 found in Arafat’s grave and in the samples are of an environmental nature,” Nanterre prosecutor Catherine Denis told AFP.

Arafat led the Palestine Liberation Organization for 35 years, and became the first president of the Palestinian Authority in 1996.

He fell violently ill in October 2004 and died two weeks later, at age 75, in a Paris military hospital.

The medical report published after Arafat’s death listed the immediate cause as a massive brain hemorrhage resulting from an infection. Doctors ruled out foul play; some had contended that Arafat died of AIDS.

Many Palestinians continue to believe that Arafat was poisoned by Israel because he was an obstacle to peace. Israel has denied any involvement.

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