Was Yasser Arafat poisoned? (+video)
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died in 2004, but the cause of death has yet to be determined. Samples were taken from Arafat's corpse on Tuesday; investigators hope to determine whether he was poisoned by spring 2013.
RAMALLAH, West Bank
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Palestinians witnessed the funeral of their hero and longtime leader eight years ago, but conspiracy theories surrounding his death have never been laid to rest.
Many are convinced their icon was the victim of assassination by Israeli agents, and may have been poisoned wittingly or unwittingly by a Palestinian. They may remain convinced of that, whatever the outcome of this autopsy.
Arafat's body was uncovered in the grave and samples removed without moving the corpse. The tomb was resealed in hours and wreaths placed by Palestinian leaders including Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
The head of the Palestinian investigation committee, Tawfiq Tirawi, said the procedure went smoothly. A Palestinian medical team took samples and gave them to each of the Swiss, French and Russian forensic teams.
"We need proof in order to find those who are behind this assassination and take it to the ICC (International Criminal Court)," he said.
"Israel is occupying our land, and assassinations are not new, they have committed several, publicly and secretly ... what's to stop them from assassinating Abu Ammar (Arafat)?"
French magistrates in August opened a murder inquiry into Arafat's death in Paris in 2004, after a Swiss institute said it had discovered high levels of polonium on clothing of his which was supplied by his widow, Suha, for a television documentary.
"The state of the body was exactly what you would expect to find for someone who has been buried for eight years," Health Minister Hani Abdeen told a news conference. "There was nothing out of the ordinary."
Results in spring 2013
Jordanian doctor Abdullah al Bashir, head of the Palestinian medical committee, said about 20 samples were taken and analysis would take at least three months.
"In order to do these analyses, to check, cross-check and double cross-check, it will take several months and I don't think we'll have anything tangible available before March or April next year," said Darcy Christen, spokesman for Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland that carried out the original tests on Arafat's clothes.