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Forensics reports indicates Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned: widow

Video: An investigation into Yasser Arafat’s death suggest he may have been poisoned. Robin Stickley reports.

VANCOUVER – The widow of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said a forensic investigation confirms her husband was poisoned.

Arafat’s death in 2004 and suspicions surrounding his illness became the subject of a news investigation prompting the exhumation of his body last year.

Arafat’s widow, Suha Arafat, said examination of her husband remains, personal effects, clothing and grave site showed parts of his body and “the soil that absorbed his leaked bodily fluids” had levels of polonium “at least 18 times higher” than normal, The Guardian reported on Wednesday.

“It’s shocking … I remember how Yasser was shrinking at the hospital, how in his eyes there were a lot of questions. Death is a fate in life, it is everybody’s fate, but when it’s poison it’s terrible. We are mourning him again now,” Suha Arafat told The Guardian.

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The widow said she was not pointing the blame at any nation, group or individual. But she called his death, at the age of 75, a “political assassination.”

“This has confirmed all our doubts…It is scientifically proved that he didn’t die a natural death and we have scientific proof that this man was killed,” she told Reuters.

The results were made public in Geneva late Tuesday.

The 108-page report, compiled by scientists at Switzerland’s Lusanne University Hospital, was posted exclusively on Al-Jazeera‘s website Wednesday.

The Qatar-based news agency first reported the findings of its own investigation into Arafat’s death in July 2012, reporting traces of polonium-210 were found on the Palestinian Liberation Organization chairman’s clothing, leading French authorities to conduct a murder investigation.

The report concluded there was evidence to support the claim Arafat was poisoned.

“Taking into account the analytical limitation aforementioned, mostly time lapse since death ant the nature and quality of specimens, the results moderately support the proposition… that the death was the consequence of poisoning with polonium-210,” the scientists said on page 69.

Arafat died at the Percy Military Hospital, in Paris, on Nov. 11, 2004 — near the end of the Second Intifada — after falling ill a month earlier and eventually going into a coma.

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According to Al-Jazeera, doctors at the hospital did not conduct an autopsy.

Al-Jazeera had British forensic scientist David Barclay the Swiss findings, who said the findings “wholly convinced [him] that Arafat was murdered.”

“The level of polonium in Yasser Arafat’s rib… is about 900 milibecquerels,” Barclay told Al-Jazeera. “That is either 18 or 36 times the average, depending on the literature.”

“We found the smoking gun that caused his death. What we don’t know is who’s holding the gun at the time,” Barclay said.

Polonium-210 was the same radioactive isotope that killed former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.

Litvinenko died in London after being hospitalized. As he was dying, Litvinenko accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering him his assassination.

British prosecutors later accused Litvinenko’s associates, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun of slipping the poisonous substance into the ex-Federal Security Service agent’s tea.

The scientists involved in the forensic examination referenced the Litvinenko case, noting there were differences between his death and that of Arafat.

“The presented clinical symptoms of nausea, vomiting, fatigue, diarrhea and anorexia, followed by hepatic and renal failure are often seen in cases of acute radiation syndrome (ARS),” the report stated. “ARS, however, usually also includes myelosuppression and hair loss, which were absent in this case. These latter two symptoms, however, are diversely observed and scantly documented in the case of internal exposure.”

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“The only known case is that of Mr. Litvinenko, but his report has not been made public and we cannot access it,” the scientists said.

The report also addressed concerns that Arafat’s personal belongings may have been tampered with in the eight years between his death and their examination.

But, they concluded that was not likely.

“A voluntary mishandling of the specimens between the time of President Arafat’s death and the time the bag was presented to us cannot be excluded,” the scientists reported on page 28. “Nevertheless, the accurate levels of activity to be found on clothes as a consequence of a lethal ingestion 8 years prior is a task that would necessitate high specific knowledge.”

“Finally, Mrs. Arafat certified that the measured personal effects have been stored in a secured room. Taking this into account, we estimate that specimen adulteration is highly unlikely,” they said.

Specimens from Arafat’s grave and personal belongings were also sent to Russian and French scientists as well. The results of their investigations have yet to be made public.

Reuters reported Vladimir Uiba, head Russia’s Federal Medico-Biological Agency, was quoted saying last month there were no traces of polonium found in the specimens sent to Moscow. But Uiba later denied he said anything official on the examination, Reuters reports.

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*With files from Al-Jazeera, Reuters, The Guardian, Haaretz and The Associated Press

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