• 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.

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France pushes Middle East to battle IS fighters
France has called on Middle East nations to battle Islamic State fighters. Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP

France pushes Middle East to battle IS fighters

France urged Middle East nations to take a stand against the Islamic State fighters operating nearly unchecked in Syria and Iraq. The French president also plans to set up an international summit to craft a response to the extremists. READ  

'Apocalyptic' vomiting bug hits French tourists
Hundreds of French tourists fell ill at a posh Greek resort. Photo: Screengrab/Lindo Hotels

'Apocalyptic' vomiting bug hits French tourists

Hundreds of French tourists fell violently sick a a posh Greek hotel creating what one visitor called an "apocalyptic" scene that had guests vomiting in the swimming pool and hallways. READ  

The view from La Rue
Paris tourists defy anti-love locks crusade
A campaign to persuade tourists to take selfies rather lock padlocks to bridges is falling on deaf ears it seems. Photo: AFP

Paris tourists defy anti-love locks crusade

After Paris launched a campaign to persuade tourists to throw away their love locks and pose for selfies instead, The Local popped down to the famous Pont des Arts to find loved-up visitors defiantly refusing to put down their pad locks. READ  

Hollande unveils reforms to help France's hard-up
François Hollande has announced a raft of reforms imed at boosting the country's most hard-up. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Hollande unveils reforms to help France's hard-up

President François Hollande on Wednesday vowed to go "faster and further" with reforms as he announced a raft of measures to bolster France's stagnant economy including fairer income tax levels and a relaxation of Sunday shopping rules. READ  

Future of Paris 'not promising', study says
Paris is among the world's most influential cities, but for how much longer? Photo: La Defense.

Future of Paris 'not promising', study says

A new study says Paris is in the top three of the world's most influential cities, but its position is under threat and the city's future is apparently "not promising". READ  

Northern France hopes beer will boost tourism
Nord-Pas-de-Calais hopes to take advantage of its beer heritage to boost tourism. Photo: Thomas Huguen/AFP

Northern France hopes beer will boost tourism

It already has wine, champagne and cider and but a hard-up region of northern of France, is hoping to boost its local tourism industry by tapping into another drink which forms part of its proud heritage – locally brewed beer. READ  

Interview: Liberation of Paris
'Three years underground and then the call came'
David Leiba was a Jewish French resistance fighter who helped liberate Paris from the Nazis. Photo: Joshua Melvin/The Local

'Three years underground and then the call came'

David Leiba lived underground as a French resistance fighter for years before resurfacing in the rebellion that forced the German army out of Paris. He tells The Local of his memories of the ecstatic and terrifying final moments of the Nazi occupation READ  

Hollande returns to work as problems mount up
President François Hollande and his PM Manuel Valls discuss their return to work. Photo: Bertrand Langlois/AFP

Hollande returns to work as problems mount up

The French president returns to the front line on Wednesday for his first cabinet meeting. On his packed agenda will be the stagnant economy, the threat of deflation, unemployment and more in-fighting within his own party. READ  

France tries to take sting out of Asian hornets
France is fighting back against the Asian hornet, using rods, chickens and drones. Photo: T-Mizo/Flickr

France tries to take sting out of Asian hornets

After slipping into southwest France 10 years ago in a pottery shipment from China Asian hornets have since invaded more than half the country. Now France is fighting back, using drones, poisoned rods and even chickens. READ  

Liberation of Paris: Ten things you need to know
Ten facts you didn't know about the liberation of Paris, including how many female collaborators were "purified". Photo: Critical past/YouTube

Liberation of Paris: Ten things you need to know

From the "purifying" of thousands of women, to pool room surrenders, here's ten facts about a momentous moment in French history that you might not have known about. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Travel
Watch this impressive time lapse video and you'll want to move to Paris
National
Veiled Muslim woman on a French beach prompts politician's angry rant
Travel
Forget Paris and Provence where are the least touristy areas of France?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The battle to liberate Paris from the Nazis
National
What France means to you in just one tweet
National
15 French 'false friends' you need to watch out for
International
12 reasons to invest in Paris and seven not to
National
French hamlet 'Death to Jews' mulls name change
National
French tourist caught in Pompeii brothel romp
International
'Forget the Anglo-media's image of France, the reality is much different'
Culture
VIDEO: Francophile Robin Williams enjoyed poking fun at the French
Travel
Six reasons why France is the world's top tourist destination
International
Remembering the 'forgotten campaign' in the liberation of France
Gallery
VIDEO: French bucket list - The 12 best things to do in France
International
Do three French cities deserve to be in top 10 "World 's Most Unfriendly"?
Gallery
Don't make a faux pas! Ten things not to do when working in France
Health
Ebola: What is the risk of it coming to France?
Health
Are the French really a nation of smokers?
Culture
Frightened by the prospect of long French dinners? You're not alone
National
'Stay in Paris in August? You'd have to be crazy'
International
Calais migrant crisis: 'People will be killed if nothing is done'
Culture
Paris is closed for August, but will it always be like that?
Culture
Paris: The not-so-Grande Arche has fallen into a sorry state
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