RAMALLAH: French investigators and Swiss experts could jointly exhume the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to judge if he was poisoned, a Palestinian source close to the probe said Friday.
The source, asking not to be named, told AFP the two teams would travel to the West Bank town of Ramallah to take samples from Arafat’s remains in a mission shortly before the eighth anniversary of his death on November 11.
“The Palestinian Authority has decided to unite the efforts and work of the Palestinian commission, of French investigators and Swiss experts” from a specialized laboratory, said the head of the Palestinian panel on Arafat’s death.
Tawfiq Tirawi said the Palestinian leadership had agreed to samples being taken from Arafat’s body “if this will help determine the truth” and if this was in keeping with his family’s wishes.
“For us, the family is his wife Suha, his daughter Zahwa and the representative of the family, the nephew Nasser Al-Qidwa, but the practice in Western countries is for his wife and daughter alone to represent the family,” he said.
“As a result, the investigators and the Swiss team will come to take some samples,” he said.
The nephew said on Thursday he opposed French plans to exhume the body, instead favoring an international commission of inquiry.
“We have always thought that it was death by poisoning with unknown substances, there was evidence in this direction, and we have said so from day one,” Qidwa said.
“It is not logical that whenever someone wants a commission of inquiry they come up with the exhumation of Arafat for analysis,” said Qidwa, president of the Yasser Arafat Foundation.
“It would be better if an analysis of the body were to take place in the framework of an international commission of inquiry, to be set up without delay,” he said.
Arafat died in a French military hospital near Paris on November 11, 2004 and French experts were unable to say what had killed him, with many Palestinians subscribing to the belief that he was poisoned by Israel.
Last month, French prosecutors opened a murder inquiry into his death after Al-Jazeera news channel broadcast an investigation in which the Swiss experts said they found high levels of radioactive polonium on his personal effects.