By LORI HINNANT
The widow of Yasser Arafat on Tuesday formally asked for a French investigation into his death, bringing a complaint of assassination weeks after raising new suspicions that the former Palestinian leader was poisoned before his 2004 death in a French military hospital.
Earlier this month, Palestinian authorities gave final approval for Arafat’s body to be exhumed. In recent tests of Arafat’s belongings requested by his widow, Suha, and the Arab satellite network Al-Jazeera, a Swiss lab detected elevated traces of polonium-210 _ a rare and highly lethal substance _ but said the findings were inconclusive and that Arafat’s bones would have to be tested. Questions remain about the results of any additional tests after so long.
French doctors have said Arafat died of a massive stroke and had suffered from a blood condition.
A French judge will still have to decide whether to accept the complaint _ also brought on behalf of their daughter _ and open an investigation. According to a statement from the family’s French lawyer, Pierre-Olivier Sur, Tuesday’s request was intended to “establish the truth in honor of their husband and father.”
But there are signs that Palestinian officials are uninterested in an autopsy.
Arafat’s nephew, Nasser al-Kidwa, said Tuesday that there is no need to exhume the body. Al-Kidwa is a key member of the team investigating Arafat’s death and as a close relative also has veto rights over digging up the remains. Arafat’s sister, Khadija, who lives in Gaza, also has said that the body should be left in peace.
Al-Kidwa has alleged repeatedly that Arafat was poisoned by Israel, though he has not provided anything to back up the claim. Israel has vehemently denied a role in Arafat’s death, and his widow’s complaint does not name any people or countries.
He said an international investigation should be launched. “If an international investigative committee asks for an autopsy, we are ready to do it, but why do it (the autopsy) now?” he said. “Is it to convince ourselves? We are convinced (that Israel killed Arafat) and we need the world to make a move.”
Associated Press writer Mohammed Daraghmeh contributed to this report from Ramallah, West Bank.