Last updated: 17 October, 2012

Arafat widow quizzed in French murder probe

French investigators probing the death of Yasser Arafat have questioned his widow Suha, who claims the veteran Palestinian leader may have been poisoned, ahead of his expected exhumation.

A source told AFP on Wednesday that Suha, a resident of Malta, had met three investigators in mid-September in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, where the family’s complaint was filed.

“Yes, there was a hearing with the French officials who took my testimony. It was long and I answered the questions frankly to aid their assignment and work,” said Suha Arafat, contacted by AFP in Malta by telephone.

She said she was “determined to reach the truth, because the martyr Arafat is an Arab and international personality, and the truth about his death interests every Palestinian patriot.”

“We also want to open such an inquiry to dissuade any party or person from assassinating a Palestinian official in the future, because the truth will clearly emerge, however covert or capable the perpetrators,” she said.

France opened a murder enquiry in late August after Arafat’s family launched legal action following reports he may have died from radioactive polonium near Paris in 2004.

French investigators are due to arrive in Ramallah, where the former Palestinian leader is entombed, on November 26 as part of the probe they are conducting with experts from a Swiss radiation institute.

Arafat’s family has agreed to the exhumation of his remains for testing.

The iconic Palestinian leader died in a French military hospital near Paris on November 11, 2004. French doctors were unable to say what had killed him and many Palestinians believe he was poisoned by Israel.

France opened the inquiry after Al-Jazeera television broadcast an investigation in which the Swiss experts said they found high levels of radioactive polonium on Arafat’s personal effects.

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