Yasser Arafat Murder Inquiry: French Magistrates seek Ramallah visit

September 5, 2012

French judges investigating the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat are seeking to travel to Ramallah to look into allegations that he was poisoned.

Arafat, who led the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) for 35 years and became the first president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1996, fell violently ill in October 2004 at his besieged West Bank compound. Two weeks later he was flown to a French military hospital in Paris, where he died on 11 November 2004 at the age of 75. The cause of death was described as a “stroke”.

Yasser Arafat’s family launched a case last month over claims that he was poisoned with polonium-210, a radioactive element prior to his death. French prosecutors later opened a murder inquiry into the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 2004.

Swiss scientists hired by a documentary crew say they found traces of polonium on some of Arafat’s belongings. The medical records of Arafat, who died at a military hospital near Paris in 2004, said he had a stroke resulting from a blood disorder. However, many Palestinians continue to believe that Israel poisoned him. Israel has denied any involvement.

Arafat’s widow, Suha had brought a Civil suit before a court in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre. The case does not name an alleged killer, but is brought against an unnamed perpetrator X. French officials told the media that the prosecutors had agreed to begin a murder inquiry, by appointing an investigating judge.

The French legal system, unlike many other systems, requires the judge to take investigative role in legal proceedings.

Earlier it was also reported in various media that President Mahmoud Abbas had officially requested the help of French President Francois Hollande in the investigation.

The inquiry stems from an al-Jazeera TV documentary broadcast early in July, which commissioned Lausanne University’s Institute of Radiation Physics (IRA) to analyse Arafat’s belongings, which his widow had kept.

The scientists told the channel that they had found “significant” traces of polonium-210 present in items including Arafat’s trademark keffiyeh.

What is polonium-210?