Yasser Arafat may have been killed with polonium: Swiss report


The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat pictured in Gaza City in 1982. This photo was released by Palestinian Authorities in October 2004 after Arafat collapsed and lost consciousness. He died in Paris shortly afterward.



Swiss scientists have found unnaturally high levels of radioactive polonium-210 in samples taken from the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s body, leading them to conclude that it is likely he was poisoned to death.

Polonium is the radioactive isotope used to poison former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London in 2006.

Researchers from the University Center of Legal Medicine in Lausanne said in a report – obtained by the Al Jazeera TV network – that levels of polonium in Arafat’s ribs and pelvis were at least 18 times higher than normal.

The scientists said they were 83 percent confident that polonium was the cause of his death.

Arafat was stricken with nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain on Oct. 12, 2004, after eating a meal at his Ramallah presidential compound. Before this, he had been in overall good health, but he did not bounce back from the illness, and his health declined rapidly, sending him into a coma a few weeks later.

He died in Paris on Nov. 11, 2004, of an undiagnosed illness.

An investigation into the cause of Arafat’s death by Al Jazeera in 2012 led to the opening of a French murder investigation and the exhumation of Arafat’s remains.

The Swiss scientists were given 20 samples of Arafat’s body tissue to examine. Two additional teams of French judges and forensic experts and a Russian group are also examining tissue samples, but have yet to release their results.

Dave Barclay, a UK forensic scientist, told Al Jazeera that the results convince him that Arafat was murdered.

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

Arafat’s widow, Suha Arafat, told the Guardian, "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."

More from GlobalPost: Polonium, HIV or “Palestinium” — the real story of Yasser Arafat’s death