Widow of Arafat asks France to probe cause of death
The widow of Yasser Arafat will file a legal complaint in France asking authorities to investigate her husband's death, her lawyer said yesterday.
Palestinian authorities gave final approval this week for the former Palestinian leader's body to be exhumed and asked for an international investigation into his 2004 death in a French military hospital.
That came on the heels of a broadcast last week by Arab satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera, which said it had conducted a nine-month investigation into the leader's death after his widow, Suha, handed over Arafat's medical file and what she said was a duffel bag of his belongings.
Included in the bag were a fur hat and a woollen cap with some of his hair, a toothbrush, and clothing with his urine and blood stains.
Switzerland's Institute of Radiation Physics detected elevated traces of polonium-210 -- a rare and highly lethal substance -- on the belongings, but said the findings were inconclusive and that Arafat's bones would have to be tested. That prompted a request to have his remains exhumed; Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas decided to go ahead with that earlier this week.
Still, testing the bones may not provide a clear answer. Polonium-210 decays rapidly, and experts have been divided over whether Arafat's remains would provide a solid clue eight years after his death.
If Suha Arafat's complaint is accepted, it will give French authorities the ability to investigate her husband's death.
Lawyer Pierre-Olivier Sur said yesterday that Arafat's widow hopes an investigation will "establish the exact circumstances of her husband's death and establish the truth in order that justice is served".
French doctors have said Arafat died of a massive stroke and had suffered from a blood condition known as disseminated intravascular coagulation, or DIC. But the records were inconclusive about what brought about the DIC.