Tel Aviv. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat did not die a natural death but was poisoned with polonium, his widow Suha said in an interview Wednesday.
She made the claim to broadcaster al-Jazeera, after a laboratory in Switzerland said it found abnormal levels of the rare, highly radioactive element on Arafat’s personal belongings.
Suha had requested the tests and handed the belongings, including underwear and his toothbrush, to the Qatari channel, which sent them to the institute in Lausanne.
She called on the Palestinian Authority to exhume his body for further testing on his bones, and for an international investigation similar to the one into the death of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.
“We have first proof of a crime here,” she told al-Jazeera.
Asked why she had not ordered an autopsy after Arafat’s death, she replied “it never occurred to me” and thought that “maybe it [was] not important.” Arafat died in a military hospital outside Paris on Nov.11, 2004, after a bowel infection that triggered a bleeding disorder and subsequent stroke.
Before being flown to Paris for treatment, he had been under Israeli siege in his headquarters in Ramallah.
The New York Times, which had obtained Arafat’s French medical records, reported in 2005 that no traces of toxins were found in specimens of Arafat’s blood sent to three different laboratories.
Arafat also did not have an enlarged kidney, nor did he suffer liver damage, the paper quoted the records as saying.
A senior Israeli physician who also read the medical records said at the time that Arafat’s illness seemed “a classic case of food poisoning that is taught at medical school.”
Rumors that he was assassinated by Israel have prevailed among Palestinians over the past eight years.