A French report ruling out poisoning in Yasser Arafat's 2004 death has a glaring inconsistency, the co-author of a Swiss probe said Thursday, according to AFP.
Professor Francois Bochud, head of the Lausanne Institute of Applied Radiophysics, was thus sticking by his team's conclusion that the former Palestinian Authority leader was likely poisoned to death.
"Our data lean more towards the thesis of poisoning than in the opposite direction," Bochud told AFP.
Bochud is the co-author of a report published last month that said the high levels of polonium - a rare and highly radioactive element - found in Arafat's remains and personal effects indicated third party involvement in his death.
An as-yet unpublished French report, however, rules out poisoning, a source close to the probe said this week, with an argument that the naturally occurring radioactive element radon, found in the ground, explained the high polonium levels.
Bochud, who has read the French report, told AFP that the 107-page Swiss study had presented numerous arguments against that theory, the most compelling being that other remains exhumed from the same cemetery did not contain excessive levels of polonium.
Both the Swiss and the French experts thoroughly cleaned Arafat's bones to remove external contamination before carrying out their measurements, and proceeded to find identical levels of polonium, he pointed out.
"I have a hard time understanding why they, on one side say they have thoroughly cleaned the bones and eliminated contaminations, and at the same time explain their measurements with the very contamination they supposedly eliminated," he told AFP, adding, "It's a bit difficult to follow their reasoning.”
Arafat died in France on November 11, 2004 at the age of 75, but doctors were unable to specify the cause of death. At the time, his widow Suha Arafat refused to allow an autopsy.
Suha Arafat later allowed investigators to exhume his body after traces of polonium-210 were found on clothing that she provided to scientists as part of an Al Jazeera documentary.
Following the investigation by the Swiss team, PA officials were quick to say that the findings proved that Arafat had been “assassinated” and, as expected, blamed Israel for the “assassination.”
PA society has long given currency to the rumor that Arafat was murdered, with Israel the party most often blamed, but there has never been any proof. Israeli leaders for their part have repeatedly denied any role in his death, dismissing such suggestions as pure fiction.
Suha Arafat rejected the French experts’ report on Wednesday, saying she was still convinced her husband was poisoned.
"I'm still completely convinced that the martyr Arafat did not die a natural death, and I will keep trying to get to the truth," she told AFP.
"I'm shocked by (the results of) the French medical report, which I only received four pages of to look at," she added.