Last updated: 15 July, 2012

Arafat’s widow to lodge complaint over poison claim

The widow of Yasser Arafat is to launch legal action in France over claims that the veteran Palestinian leader died of radioactive polonium poisoning, her lawyer said in remarks published Sunday.

“Mrs Arafat has decided to lodge a legal complaint within the month,” the Geneva-based lawyer Marc Bonnant told Le Matin Dimanche newspaper.

He said the legal proceedings would be taken in France where Arafat died at a military hospital in 2004.

He said Suha Arafat, who has said she backs exhuming her late husband’s remains, would press charges “against persons unknown for poisoning.”

The Institute for Radiation Physics in Switzerland, which analysed biological samples taken from Arafat’s personal effects, found “an abnormal quantity” of the lethal radioactive substance polonium, the Al-Jazeera news channel reported in a documentary this month.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Arafat’s widow have reportedly already given their consent for samples to be taken from his remains, which are buried in a mausoleum in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Arafat’s nephew Nasser al-Qidwa on Thursday accused Israel of poisoning the veteran leader and called for those responsible to be held accountable.

Polonium is a highly toxic substance which is rarely found outside military and scientific circles, and was used to kill former Russian spy turned Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 shortly after drinking tea laced with the poison.