PARIS — Yasser Arafat’s widow asked a French court today to launch a murder investigation into the death of the Palestinian leader, after a report suggested he was poisoned by a radioactive element before his death in a Paris military hospital in 2004.
Arafat was flown to France in October 2004 from his battered headquarters, where he had been effectively confined by Israel for more than two and a half years, after a sudden collapse in his health.
He died a month later. Arafat aides at the time quoted doctors as saying he had suffered a brain hemorrhage and lost the use of his vital organs one by one.
Allegations of foul play quickly surfaced after the doctors who treated him said they could not establish a precise cause of the illness that led to his death.
The lawsuit filed by his widow Suha and their daughter Zahwa in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre, accused a person or persons unknown of premeditated murder.
Their complaint followed a statement by a Swiss institute that it had found surprisingly high levels of polonium-210 on Arafat’s clothing – the same substance used to kill former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.
A legal source told Reuters the Nanterre court would, in the first instance, have to determine whether it had jurisdiction to examine whether a case of alleged poisoning that took place in another country could be legally investigated in France.
“Suha and Zahwa have complete faith in the French justice system,” Suha Arafat said in a statement released by her lawyer.
“Suha and Zahwa Arafat do not, at this stage, advance any accusation against a specific party, be it a state, a group or an individual,” it added. (Reuters)