• France edition
 
Arafat's remains dug up for poison tests
The late Yasser Arafat (Photo: World Economic Forum)

Arafat's remains dug up for poison tests

Published: 27 Nov 2012 09:41 GMT+01:00
Updated: 27 Nov 2012 09:41 GMT+01:00

The process was carried out in secrecy, with Arafat's grave carefully shielded from the public eye and media kept far away, but Palestinian sources confirmed the remains had been removed for testing on Tuesday morning.   

"At 5:00 am (0300 GMT), experts began to remove the stones and began opening the grave in an orderly fashion.

The remains were then transferred to a mosque adjacent to the grave for the removal of samples," a Palestinian source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The source said only a Palestinian doctor would be allowed to directly touch the remains and remove the samples, but that the process was being conducted in front of Swiss, Russian and French experts.

After the samples are removed, the remains are to be reburied in a military ceremony expected to be broadcast live on Palestinian television.

For weeks now, Arafat's grave in a mausoleum on the Muqataa presidential site from which he once governed has been hidden from view by blue tarpaulins.

The mufti of Jerusalem, Mohamed Hussein, arrived at the Muqataa on Tuesday morning and told AFP he would be present at the opening of the tomb.

The samples being collected are to be tested for the radioactive substance polonium as part of a new investigation into whether Arafat was poisoned.

The probe was prompted by an investigation carried out by the Al-Jazeera news channel, which commissioned a Swiss lab to test personal effects belonging to the late leader that were given to them by his widow Suha.

The tests revealed the presence of the toxic substance polonium, and prompted calls for the exhumation of Arafat's remains for new testing.

Polonium was the substance that killed Russian ex-spy and fierce Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

France opened a former murder inquiry into Arafat's death in late August at Suha's request, and French judges in charge of the investigation arrived in Ramallah on Sunday to participate in the exhumation process.

Rumours and speculation have surrounded Arafat's death ever since the quick deterioration of his health before he died at the Percy military hospital near Paris in November 2004 at the age of 75.

Doctors were unable at the time to say what killed the Palestinians' first democratically-elected president and an autopsy was never performed, at his widow's request.

But many Palestinians believed he was poisoned by Israel -- a theory that gained ground in July following the Al-Jazeera report.

The samples taken Tuesday will be flown to laboratories in the three countries involved, with results expected within several months.

Some experts, however, have questioned whether anything conclusive will be found because polonium has a short half-life.

Jean-Rene Jourdain, deputy head of human protection at the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), said it would take weeks of analysis to be sure that the traces were man-made polonium rather than just coincidental contamination by naturally-occurring polonium.
  
"Even if traces of polonium are found, it doesn't mean that they are man-made," he told AFP on Monday.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'French anti-Semitism spike threatens society'
France's Chief Rabbi says the recent rise in anti-Semitism is a danger to all. Photo: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP

'French anti-Semitism spike threatens society'

French youths radicalised by Islamists are a major threat to France's Jews, who are already subjected to a surge in anti-Semitism, says the country's new Chief Rabbi. But he insists that the 500,000-strong community can trust the state to do all it can to protect them. READ  

Coke and marijuana in Vatican car in France
An official Vatican car was caught smuggling drugs through France. Photo: AFP

Coke and marijuana in Vatican car in France

Two men are in French jail after they allegedly used an official Vatican vehicle to try to smuggle several kilos of cocaine and cannabis through France, according to media reports. READ  

French rail company charged in crash deaths
Photo: AFP

French rail company charged in crash deaths

The state-owned company that manages France's railway infrastructure was charged with manslaughter on Tuesday for the derailment in the Paris suburbs that killed seven people in 2013. The same fate is expected later this week for France's train operator SNCF. READ  

Air France strike: Most flights grounded
Air France's pilot strike is continuing for a second day. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

Air France strike: Most flights grounded

Angry Air France pilots continued their strike on Tuesday, with some 60 percent of the company's flights expected to be cancelled. The pilots have threatened to stay off the job until Friday. READ  

France's troubled leaders face confidence vote
France's government faces a key vote of confidence on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

France's troubled leaders face confidence vote

Lawmakers are to carry out a crucial confidence vote on Tuesday as France's economic and political crises have left the government seemingly with ever reduced authority and legitimacy. READ  

Designer Gaultier 'retires' from clothes business
Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Designer Gaultier 'retires' from clothes business

After four decades of shocking and wowing the fashion world, French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier has announded he's going to stop creating ready-to-wear clothes and will focus on artsier haute couture creations. READ  

French Indian summer could mean great wine
France's white grape harvest is looking good so far. Photo: François Nacimbeni/AFP

French Indian summer could mean great wine

France's Indian summer weather could undo some of the damage done by its cold, wet summer and thus produce some great wines. Experts are particularly hopeful about the white grape varities. READ  

French paper Libération to fire third of its workers
Legendary leftist French daily Libération plans to shed a third of its workers. Photo: Pierre Andrieu/AFP

French paper Libération to fire third of its workers

The stalwart leftist daily in France, Libération, announced on Monday it will let go a third of its staff in an effort to keep the newspaper founded by Jean-Paul Satre from folding for good. READ  

Jilted Frenchman tells cops wife's a jihadist
A Frenchman thought jihad was great way to get back at his estranged wife (not pictured here). Photo: Mohamed Abed/AFP

Jilted Frenchman tells cops wife's a jihadist

An angry Frenchman tried to get back at his wife after she left him by telling police an apparently fabricated story of how she'd recently been radicalized and was planning to become a jihadist in Syria. READ  

Secret talks open in Paris on Ukraine crisis
Secret talks opened in Paris about the Ukraine crisis. Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP

Secret talks open in Paris on Ukraine crisis

France, Germany and Russia held secret talks in Paris about the Ukraine crisis on Monday, but have declined to reveal any details about the discusions, which come over a week after a ceasefire began in the war-ravaged country. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Ten great bars in Paris only locals know about
Society
France's top expat tribes: Which are you?
National
France to set flat-rate for Paris airport taxis
Politics
French separatists want Scots to say 'yes'
National
Anti-dog poo offensive launched in French town
National
Scammers attack Paris's top cop at tourist hotspot
National
French leader didn't pay his rent for three years
National
'WW2 bomb' kills camper on French island
Does France have a racism problem?
National
National
'Enough gloom, France is an amazing country'
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Fashion Ladies of the Local: Win a New Autumn Look
Gallery
The top ten tourist traps to avoid in France
Politics
The juiciest bits from Trierweiler's tell-all book
Politics
Trierweiler tells all: 'Hollande wanted me back, at any price'
Education
'Sacre bleu!' Do the French really say that?
Politics
Manuel Valls has plenty in common with Tony Blair, but not background
International
Votes for expats: Plan to end UK's 15-year rule
Gallery
Ten dos and don'ts for keeping your French in-laws happy
National
Unemployment: How does France compare to Europe?
International
Are all the talented professionals really leaving France?
National
La France profonde: Is it a rural idyll or a backwater hell?
Travel
Check out the four new attractions coming to Paris this autumn
Gallery
The French words you can't translate literally
National
Ten things you need to know about France's economics whizzkid
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se