THE remains of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will be exhumed on Tuesday as part of a renewed investigation into his death, a Palestinian investigator said yesterday.
Arafat died, aged 75, in November 2004 in a French military hospital, a month after falling ill. Palestinian officials claim he was poisoned by Israel, but have not presented evidence. Israel has denied the allegations.
The detection of a lethal radioactive substance in biological traces on Arafat’s clothing sparked a new investigation this year. Tests were inconclusive and experts said they need to check his remains to learn more.
On Tuesday, Swiss, French and Russian experts will take samples from Arafat’s bones, said Tawfik Tirawi, who heads the Palestinian team investigating the death.
Arafat will be reburied the same day with military honours, but the ceremony will be closed to the public.
This month workers began prying open the concrete-encased tomb in Arafat’s former government headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The Palestinian Authority, the self-rule government in the West Bank, had hesitated before agreeing to the exhumation, in part because of cultural and religious sensitivities.
For the past two weeks the gravesite has been surrounded with a blue tarpaulin and roads leading to the Arafat mausoleum were closed. Arafat is still widely revered in the Palestinian territories, and Palestinian officials said they do not want the process observed by media and others.
The new probe into his death began this summer, after a Swiss lab discovered traces of polonium-210, a deadly radioactive isotope, on clothes said to be his. The clothes were provided by Arafat’s widow, Soha, and given to the lab by the Arab satellite TV station Al-Jazeera.
Separately, Soha Arafat asked the French government to investigate, while the Palestinian Authority called in Russian experts.