Last updated: 20 September, 2012

Arafat’s nephew opposes French exhumation plan

The nephew of Yasser Arafat said Thursday that he opposed French plans to exhume the Palestinian leader’s body to check claims he was poisoned and favoured instead an international commission of enquiry.

“We have always thought that it was death by poisoning with unknown substances, there was evidence in this direction, and we have said so from day one,” nephew Nasser al-Qidwa told AFP.

“It is not logical that whenever someone wants a commission of inquiry they come up with the exhumation of Arafat for analysis,” said Qidwa, president of the Yasser Arafat Foundation.

“It would be better if an analysis of the body were to take place in the framework of an international commission of inquiry, to be set up without delay,” he said, speaking by telephone from Switzerland.

Arafat died in a French military hospital near Paris on November 11, 2004 and French experts were unable to say what had killed him, with many Palestinians subscribing to the belief that he was poisoned by Israel.

Last month, French prosecutors opened a murder inquiry into Arafat’s death after Al-Jazeera news channel broadcast an investigation in which Swiss experts said they found high levels of radioactive polonium on his personal effects.

In July, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Arafat’s widow Suha both gave their consent for samples to be taken from his remains, which are buried in a mausoleum in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

But some Palestinians feel the French did not do enough to shed light on the cause of Arafat’s death at the time and they are pushing for an international probe into the circumstances of his death.

“What is needed now is a political position that places upon Israel the responsibility for the assassination of Arafat,” Qidwa said.