PARIS: Yasser Arafat’s widow asked a French court today to launch a murder investigation into the death of the Palestinian leader, after a report suggested he was poisoned by a radioactive element before his death in a Paris military hospital in 2004.
Arafat was flown to France in October 2004 from his battered headquarters, where he had been effectively confined by Israel for more than two and a half years, after a sudden collapse in his health. He died a month later. Arafat aides at the time quoted doctors as saying he had suffered a brain hemorrhage and lost the use of his vital organs one by one. Allegations of foul play quickly surfaced after the doctors who treated him said they could not establish a precise cause of the illness that led to his death. The lawsuit filed by his widow Suha and their daughter Zahwa in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre, accused a person or persons unknown of premeditated murder.
Their complaint followed a statement by a Swiss institute that it had found surprisingly high levels of polonium-210 on Arafat’s clothing — the same substance used to kill former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006. A legal source told Reuters the Nanterre court would, in the first instance, have to determine whether it had jurisdiction to examine whether a case of alleged poisoning that took place in another country could be legally investigated in France. “Suha and Zahwa have complete faith in the French justice system,” Suha said in a statement released by her lawyer.