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Arafat's Widow Questioned as 'Poisoning' Saga Continues

In the ongoing saga of the circumstances of the death of Yasser Arafat, French investigators have questioned his widow.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 10/18/2012, 6:43 AM

Suha Arafat and Yasser Arafat
Suha Arafat and Yasser Arafat
AFP/PPO/File

In the ongoing saga of the circumstances of the death of former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat, French investigators probing his death have questioned his widow Suha, AFP reported.

A source told AFP on Wednesday that Suha, a resident of Malta, had met three investigators back in mid-September in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, where the family's complaint was filed.

"Yes, there was a hearing with the French officials who took my testimony. It was long and I answered the questions frankly to aid their assignment and work," said Suha Arafat, contacted by AFP in Malta by telephone.

She said she was "determined to reach the truth, because the martyr Arafat is an Arab and international personality, and the truth about his death interests every Palestinian patriot."

"We also want to open such an inquiry to dissuade any party or person from assassinating a Palestinian official in the future, because the truth will clearly emerge, however covert or capable the perpetrators," she told AFP.

France opened a murder enquiry into Arafat’s death in late August, after his family launched legal action following reports he may have died from radioactive polonium near Paris in 2004. This was suggested in an Al-Jazeera news investigation in which Swiss experts said they found high levels of radioactive polonium on his personal effects.

French investigators are due to arrive in Ramallah, where Arafat is entombed, on November 26 as part of the probe they are conducting with experts from that same Swiss radiation institute.

Arafat's family has agreed to the exhumation of his remains for testing, though his nephew has said that he opposes plans to exhume Arafat’s body, favoring instead an international commission of enquiry.

The Swiss laboratory which conducted the test of Arafat’s belongings for Al-Jazeera has said it will help investigate the death only if it receives guarantees its findings will not be used for political purposes.

Medical files released for the first time several months ago portray Arafat as a robust 75-year-old whose sudden health crisis, a month before his 2004 death, was initially blamed on viral gastroenteritis.

An Israeli specialist, Dr. Joseph Zimmerman, who reviewed the medical file, said Arafat's early symptoms were not consistent with viral gastroenteritis, but also said poisoning seemed unlikely, even by a radioactive agent such as polonium-210.