A report published by a team of experts from Lausanne University Hospital’s Institute of radiation now concludes that Yasser Arafat may have been poisoned. Arafat’s remains are being studied by three teams from Switzerland, France and Russia following the request of his widow, Suha. Suha had given Al Jazeera permission to access his medical records and other personal effects with the aim of determining the cause of his death. The other teams from Russia and France have not yet published their reports.
The results show that the former leader might have died of Polonium-210 poisoning. According to the same report, “polonium is normally deposited in soft tissue rather than the bone”. When the bones were examined for polonium, the scientist discovered traces of the poison in various parts like the rib, the sternum, and in the crest of the skull. In total, there were about 900 milibecquerels of polonium in Arafat’s remains, a level that is between 18-36 times the averages according to Dave Barclay, a U.K. forensic scientist.
Following the news, Arafat’s widow said on Wednesday that the report has confirmed all doubts and that “We are revealing a real crime, a political assassination,"
However, according to wired, polonium-210 has half-life of 138 days, meaning that the possibility of still finding any trace of polonium after 8 years is negligible. Therefore, what was discovered might have been a by-product of the body's decay rather than polonium itself.
Arafat died in 2004 at the age of 74, but there was no autopsy performed at the time, and the cause of his death has never been conclusively determined. This had been made difficult because immediately after Arafat’s death, evidence of his death were poorly documented, and samples destroyed.
Following the reports, many Palestinians began speculating who might have poisoned Arafat, with many pointing fingers to Israel. However, Israel has strongly denied the charges through former Israel Spokesman, Raanan Gissin who told the associated press that "if anyone poisoned him, it could have been someone from his close circle."
(image via Wikipedia)