Samples taken from Arafat corpse for poison tests

Tue Nov 27, 2012 10:13am EST
 
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By Jihan Abdalla

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Forensic experts took samples from Yasser Arafat's uncovered corpse in the West Bank on Tuesday, trying to determine if he was murdered by Israeli agents using the hard-to-trace radioactive poison, Polonium.

Palestinians witnessed the funeral of their hero and longtime leader eight years ago, but conspiracy theories surrounding his death have never been laid to rest.

Many are convinced their icon was the victim of a cowardly assassination, and may stay convinced whatever the outcome of this autopsy. But some in the city of Ramallah where he lies deplored the uncovering of his body on Tuesday.

"This is wrong. After all this time, today they suddenly want to find out the truth?" said construction worker Ahmad Yousef, 31. "They should have done it eight years ago," he said.

Arafat's body was uncovered in its grave and samples were removed without having to lift the corpse from the ground. As a result, the planned reburial ceremony with full military honors was called off.

The tomb was resealed in hours and wreaths were placed by Palestinian leaders including Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

"The state of the body was exactly what you would expect to find for someone who has been buried for eight years. There was nothing out of the ordinary," Health Minister Hani Abdeen told a news conference.

French magistrates in August opened a murder inquiry into Arafat's death in Paris in 2004 after a Swiss institute said it had discovered high levels of polonium on clothing of his which was supplied by his widow, Suha, for a television documentary.   Continued...

 
Tayeb Abdel-Rahim (centre R), a top aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, walks past an honour guard after laying a wreath near the grave of the late leader Yasser Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah November 27, 2012. REUTERS/Ammar Awad