LAUSANNE – The remains of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat showed test results consistent with polonium poisoning and should lead to a judicial investigation even if they were not absolute proof that he died that way, Swiss experts said today.
The two forensic experts were part of an international team that opened Arafat’s grave in the West Bank city of Ramallah last November and took samples from his body to see if there was evidence he was poisoned with the radioactive element. Their report was released yesterday.
“Our observations are coherent with a hypothesis of poisoning, in any case more consistent than with the opposite hypothesis [of no poisoning],” Patrice Mangin, director of Lausanne University Hospital’s center of legal medicine, told a news conference.
Doubts remained, although they had exhausted all forensic investigations into existing specimens, he said. Biological samples taken from Arafat’s body at the time of his death in a hospital in France in November 2004 have been destroyed.
“The doubt is enough to induce more investigation, but at a judicial level, to open an inquiry to look at other kinds of evidence, not measurements, but contacts between Palestinians and other people,” Mangin told Reuters in an interview.
“From my point of view, the evidence is more in the country where President Arafat was living,” he added.
Francois Bochud, director of the university’s Institute of Radiation Physics, said the evidence was not conclusive.
“Can we say with certitude that polonium was the cause of death of President Arafat? Unfortunately for those of you who want a clearly-defined answer, the answer is no. That is to say, our study did not permit us to demonstrate categorically the hypothesis of poisoning by polonium.”
Bochud told Reuters: “We cannot tell how much polonium actually was ingested, only that our observations are compatible with the poisoning hypothesis.”
Arafat died in a French hospital in November 2004, four weeks after falling ill after a meal with vomiting and stomach pains.
The official cause of death was a massive stroke but French doctors said at the time they were unable to determine the origin of his illness. No autopsy was carried out.
His widow Suha initiated Swiss testing on his personal effects in 2012 to probe whether he had been poisoned and the results lead to analyses on samples taken from his corpse, including bones, hair and his shroud.
The technical report of 108 pages was handed over on Tuesday at a secret meeting in a Geneva hotel to representatives of Suha and the Palestinian Authority, who commissioned the report and split the costs equally.
It opened “the gates of hell”, one insider told Reuters.
The report was posted in full on the website of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera’s television news channel. link.reuters.com/zuk54v. (Reuters)