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French prosecutors have opened a
murder inquiry into the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 2004. They
made the decision after the latter's family presented a suit last month over
claims that he was poisoned with polonium-210, a radioactive element. Investigators
appointed by a court in Nanterre will conduct the inquiry since the Palestinian
leader died at a French military hospital in Clamart, which is within the court's
jurisdiction. The case has been filed against person or persons unknown.
According to medical records, made public a year after
his death by The New York Times, Arafat died of a haemorrhagic cerebrovascular
accident caused by a blood disorder. He died after dominating Palestinian politics
for 40 years, using every means, peaceful and lethal, to have the world listen
to the Palestinian cry for rights and recognition on the international scene,
failing however in his lifelong ambition, the creation of a Palestinian state.
Charges of murder, which the Arafat family believes to
be true, came to the fore in July when a group of Swiss scientists with the
Institute of Radiation Physics at the University of Lausanne found traces of Polonium-210
on Arafat's personal belongings, which were given to his widow after his death.
Last week, the Swiss received permission from Mrs
Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to travel to Ramallah to analyse her late
husband's remains, which are stored in a mausoleum. The Palestinian Authority had
said last month that it was willing to order the exhumation of Arafat's body. President
Mahmoud Abbas also requested the help of French President Francois Hollande in
Polonium-210 is a highly radioactive and toxic
element. It is present in food in low doses, and small amounts are created
naturally in the body. It is not dangerous for humans if touched but it is
lethal if ingested in large quantities.
Speaking to AsiaNews,
Samir Qumsieh, journalist and director of a Catholic TV station, Al-Mahed Nativity TV in Bethlehem, said,
"This case is a mystery that is still waiting for a solution. It is certain
that Arafat was poisoned. His death was not natural. Everyone is convinced of
that. We are surprised that the Palestinian Authority did not open before an
investigation into the matter."
For Palestinians, Qumsieh noted, "there was a plot. It
is clear who benefitted from it: the Israeli government. But we believe that it
[Israel] acted with the complicity of some Palestinians, perhaps someone from
Arafat's inner circle."
In other words, for the journalist, "it is clear that
he was killed. But who actually did it? That is the big question. I fear that
no investigation will be able to find an answer.