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French Officials Confirm Exhumation of Arafat's Body

French officials confirm that criminal investigators will order to exhume former PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's body next month.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 10/31/2012, 6:15 AM

Yasser Arafat
Yasser Arafat
Flash90

French officials said on Tuesday that criminal investigators will order to exhume former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's body from his Ramallah grave next month, to try to discover the cause of his death.

According to the officials, they will visit Ramallah from November 26 to 28.

The Palestinian Authority confirmed the scheduled visit and said that a Swiss investigation team will conduct a separate visit to Ramallah at the same time. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still in progress.

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.

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.

French investigators questioned Arafat’s widow, Suha, in Paris in mid-September.

The London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat reported on Tuesday that France's military attaché in Jordan would arrive in Ramallah to arrange the French experts’ visit. The report added that an employee at the French Embassy in Amman recently toured Arafat's gravesite.

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.