November 6, 2013
The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may have been poisoned with radioactive polonium, says a Swiss forensic report obtained by al-Jazeera. Arafat’s official medical records say he died in 2004 from a stroke resulting from a blood disorder. But his body was exhumed last year amid continuing claims he was murdered. The Swiss report said tests on the body showed “unexpected high activity” of polonium, which “moderately” supported the poisoning theory. Many Palestinians have long believed that Israel poisoned Arafat. There have also been allegations that he had Aids or cancer. Israel has consistently denied any involvement. A spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry said the Swiss investigation was “more soap opera than science”.
The scientists – from the Vaudois University Hospital Centre (CHUV) in Lausanne, Switzerland – carried out a detailed examination of Arafat’s medical records, samples taken from his remains and items he had taken into the hospital in Paris where he died in 2004. The biological materials included pieces of Mr Arafat’s bones and soil samples from around his corpse. The scientists concluded that their results “moderately support the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with polonium-210″. The scientists stressed that they had been unable to reach a more definitive conclusion because of the time that had lapsed since Arafat’s death, the limited samples available and the confused “chain of custody” of some of the specimens.
Polonium-210 is a highly radioactive substance. It is found naturally in low doses in food and in the body, but can be fatal if ingested in high doses. The scientists have made “a pretty strong statement”, according to Prof Paddy Regan, an expert in radiation detection and measurement at the University of Surrey in the UK, who was not involved in the investigation. “They are saying the hypothesis that Arafat was poisoned with polonium-210 is valid and has not been disproven by the data. However they cannot say definitively that he was murdered.” Prof Regan says a series of assumptions would have been made in order to ascertain how much Po-210 may or may not have been in Mr Arafat’s body at the time of his death.
Source = BBC News
To start with, a key question is: How likely are we to find these levels – a lethal level according to the Swiss – of polonium in someone who did not die from polonium poisoning? We have some scientific data on this. There are many bone samples of people who died naturally which have been analysed over the years, and they average out at between 25-50 milibecquerels (mBq) per gram of calcium. Arafat’s ribs were around 900 mBq. That is 18 to 36 times more than the average, even at the time of exhumation. And remember, that took place over eight years later when the Po210 had been reduced by 21 half-lives. So at the time of his death in 2004, he had over two million times that level circulating in his blood and being deposited in his bones. And the pattern of the results in the clothing stains done in 2012 and the bones from the exhumation show that the polonium must have been circulating in him before death. It is only found in actual stains from his urine, his blood and his sweat, and is highest in those bones which have the greatest blood supply.
November 6, 2013
In Yasser Arafat’s long and eventful life, during which he managed the unlikely transition from infamous terrorist mastermind to Nobel Peace Prize recipient, it would be an understatement to observe that he made a fair few enemies along the way. So we should hardly be surprised that, following the less than convincing conclusion reached by a team of Swiss scientists that he was “probably” poisoned with polonium-210 – the same material used to murder the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 – the conspiracy theorists will now have a field day advancing their fanciful theories about how the Palestinian leader really met his end. Arafat’s widow, Suha, who has suspected foul play ever since her husband was taken ill at his Ramallah headquarters in the autumn of 2004, has lost no time denouncing the suspected poisoning as a “political crime” and the “assassination of a great leader”, while members of Arafat’s moderate Fatah Palestinian faction have promised to petition the International Criminal Court.
But even assuming it is possible to prove that Arafat was poisoned, trying to establish who was responsible for planting the poison will, given the many foes he acquired in a lifetime of skulduggery, be another matter. For a start, Arafat’s personal commitment to the destruction of the newly formed state of Israel, which dates back to the late Fifties when he laid the foundations of the movement that later became the Palestine Liberation Organisation, did not win him many friends among the Jewish people. Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli prime minister and one of the country’s most iconic military leaders, made no secret of his desire “to remove him from our society”. Sharon is credited with at least 13 attempts to kill the Palestinian leader, not least during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, which was launched on the pretext of destroying the PLO’s terrorist infrastructure.
If the Israelis became Arafat’s sworn enemies from the moment he emerged as the Palestinians’ charismatic figurehead, his trademark keffiyah always carefully folded in the shape of Palestine, they were not alone in wanting to rid themselves of this self-styled freedom fighter. For a start, in the turbulent world of Middle Eastern politics, he made many enemies within his own organisation, with some of the more extreme sects, such as the hardline Hamas movement, questioning his commitment to creating an independent Palestinian homeland. Nor did Arafat enjoy cordial relations with other Arab leaders, for all their overt protestations of support. They suspected him of undermining their own interests through a single-minded pursuit of his Palestinian agenda. The late King Hussein of Jordan never fully trusted Arafat following his involvement in the attempt to remove the Hashemite monarchy during Jordan’s Black September civil war in 1970, while in Syria he was at one point sentenced to death for the murder of an army officer.
In such circumstances it is hardly surprising that, from the moment Arafat’s death was pronounced at a Paris hospital in the early hours of November 11 2004, a number of fanciful conspiracy theories should emerge to contest the official verdict of the French doctors that the cause of death was a “massive haemorrhagic cerebrovascular accident” – i.e. a stroke.
Source = The Telegraph
November 6, 2013
Word comes now that an examination of the remains of Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader who died in 2004, has found “unexpected high activity” of polonium. According to Arafat’s official medical records, he suffered a fatal stroke, but this level of radioactive polonium — 18 times the normal level — has prompted scientists to say they “moderately” support the notion, advanced by Arafat’s widow and others, that he was poisoned to death.
Although Arafat had many enemies in the Palestinian camp (and was notably unpopular with many Arab leaders), speculation about a culprit has naturally centered on Israel. The spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, Yigal Palmor, disparaged the claim today, saying that it is “more soap opera than science.” He cast doubt on the neutrality of the examining scientists, and also raised a legitimate question about whether they had access to all of Arafat’s medical records. In Buzzfeed, Sheera Frenkel reports that Israel is bracing for a wave of criticism. She quotes Ran Cohen, a left-wing politician, saying that, “most Palestinians believe that we were behind his death, now their anger will be renewed.”
Israeli anxiety about such accusations, arising at a sensitive time in the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, is understandable, but the Israeli government should remember that it was the official policy of several past Israeli leaders to try to kill Arafat, who was the head of a terrorist organization that had murdered many Israeli civilians. I had several conversations on the subject of assassinating Arafat with his principal Israeli nemesis, Ariel Sharon, and today’s report sent me back to a profile I wrote of Sharon that appeared 12 years ago in the New Yorker. The profile was published just as Sharon was running, successfully, for prime minister. Here’s what I wrote directly on the subject of assassination:
Sharon was blunt on the subject of Arafat. “He’s a murderer and a liar,” he said. “He’s an enemy. He’s a bitter enemy.” Sharon has devoted a great deal of time and energy to Arafat. By Arafat’s own count, Sharon has tried to have him killed thirteen times. Sharon wouldn’t fix on a number, but he said the opportunity had arisen repeatedly. “All the governments of Israel for many years, Labor, Likud, all of them, made an effort — and I want to use a subtle word for the American reader — to remove him from our society. We never succeeded.”
Source = Bloomberg
November 6, 2013
“What we have got is the smoking gun – the thing that caused his illness and was given to him with malice.”
A Swiss forensic team has found that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned to death in 2004 with radioactive polonium. A team of experts, including from Lausanne University Hospital’s Institute of Radiation Physics, opened Arafat’s grave in the West Bank city of Ramallah last November, and took samples from his body to seek evidence of alleged poisoning. According to Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, the Swiss team discovered levels of polonium at least 18 times higher than normal in Arafat’s ribs, pelvis and in the soil that absorbed his remains. “We are revealing a real crime, a political assassination,” Arafat’s widow, Suha Arafat, told Reuters in Paris.
“This has confirmed all our doubts,” said Suha Arafat, who met members of the Swiss forensic team in Geneva on Tuesday. “It is scientifically proved that he didn’t die a natural death and we have scientific proof that this man was killed.” She did not accuse any country or person, and acknowledged that the historic leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization had many enemies. The Israeli government, however, dismissed the Swiss report, saying that the “findings are not conclusive.” “Even if they did find traces of polonium that could indicate poisoning, there’s no evidence of how that poisoning occurred,” The Guardian quoted Palmor as saying. “Before the Palestinian Authority jumps to conclusions, there are many questions still to be answered.”
“Israel is not involved in any way,” he said. “There’s no way the Palestinians can stick this on us. It’s unreasonable and unsupported by facts. We will see yet another round of accusations, but there’s no proof.” The Guardian also quoted Dov Weissglass, who is a former aide to Ariel Sharon, the prime minister at the time of Arafat’s death. Weissglass denied any Israeli involvement in the death of the Palestinian leader. Professor David Barclay, a British forensic scientist retained by Al Jazeera to interpret the results of the Swiss tests, said the findings from Arafat’s body confirmed last year’s results from traces of bodily fluids on his underwear, toothbrush and clothing. “In my opinion, it is absolutely certain that the cause of his illness was polonium poisoning,” Barclay told Reuters. “The levels present in him are sufficient to have caused death.
Source = Haaretz
November 7, 2013
(CNN) — Swiss scientists say levels of polonium-210 measured in the personal effects and body tissues of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat “moderately” support a proposition that he died of polonium poisoning. The findings released by the University Center of Legal Medicine of Lausanne — first reported Wednesday by Al Jazeera — do not address how Arafat, who died in 2004 at age 75, might have been poisoned or who might have done it. The report comes a year after Arafat’s widow, suspecting he was poisoned, had the body exhumed for tests after the radioactive isotope polonium-210 was found on some of his personal belongings in 2012. The Swiss center said it identified “significant quantities” of polonium in biological stains on those belongings. Some polonium also was found in samples of remains taken during last year’s exhumation, it said.
The scientists’ findings may renew controversial allegations over how Arafat — the most prominent face of Palestinian opposition to Israel for five decades — died. The Palestinian Authority, which runs the West Bank, has said Israel would have been behind any poisoning of Arafat, who was regarded by many Palestinians as a father figure. “I believe that all fingers are pointed at the Israeli occupation … who have experience in such cases of poisoning,” said Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Yousef called for a “criminal international committee” to be formed to investigate the report. An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said Wednesday that any such accusation would be “utter nonsense.” “This is nothing to do with us, and for the moment they refrained (from) making accusations,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said. “They know why — there’s no strictly no connection to Israel.”
The Swiss center pointed out some caveats:
– The testing was based on “very small specimens.” The center noted that blood, urine and other specimens were destroyed after Arafat’s hospitalization.
– Eight years passed between the death and the exhumation. Because polonium-210 has a half-life of just 138 days, its detection after eight years is “very difficult and subject to uncertainties.”
– The “chain of custody” of Arafat’s personal effects — from the time he died and when the center began to study them in 2012 — is unclear, it said.
Paddy Regan, a professor of radionuclide metrology in the physics department at the University of Surrey in Guildford, England, agreed that the years that have elapsed since Arafat’s death make it more difficult to estimate how much isotope was there originally.
Source = CNN
Forensic tests on Yasser Arafat’s corpse ‘reveal he was fatally poisoned using radioactive polonium’ in 2004
November 6, 2013
Yasser Arafat was assassinated by polonium poisoning, his widow claimed yesterday. Tests carried out by Swiss experts found the Palestinian leader had unexpectedly high levels of the radioactive substance in his body. The former leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation died in November 2004, a month after falling ill. He was 75. Polonium-210 is the same substance that was used to kill defecting Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 at a London hotel. ‘We are revealing a real crime, a political assassination,’ said Suha Arafat in Paris yesterday after receiving the results of Swiss forensic tests on her husband’s corpse. A team of experts, including from Lausanne University Hospital’s Institute of Radiation Physics, opened Arafat’s grave in the West Bank city of Ramallah last November, and took samples from his body to seek evidence of alleged poisoning.
‘This has confirmed all our doubts,’ said Mrs Arafat, who met members of the Swiss forensic team in Geneva on Tuesday. ‘It is scientifically proved that he didn’t die a natural death and we have scientific proof that this man was killed.’ She did not accuse any country or person, and acknowledged that the historic leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization had many enemies. Arafat signed the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords with Israel and led a subsequent uprising after the failure of talks in 2000 on a comprehensive agreement.
Arafat had foes among his own people, but many Palestinians pointed the finger at Israel, which had besieged him in his Ramallah headquarters for the final two and a half years of his life. The Israeli government has denied any role in his death, noting that he was 75 years old and had an unhealthy lifestyle. An investigation by the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television news channel first reported last year that traces of polonium-210 were found on personal effects of Arafat given to his widow by the French military hospital where he died.
Source = Daily Mail