Swiss scientists said that they found elevated traces of polonium-210 and lead in Arafat’s remains that could not have occurred naturally, and that the timeframe of Arafat’s illness and death was consistent with poisoning from ingesting polonium.
“Our results reasonably support the poisoning theory,” Francois Bochud, director of Switzerland’s Institute of Radiation Physics, which carried out the investigation, said at a news conference.
Bochud and Patrice Mangin, director of the Lausanne University Hospital’s forensics center, said they tested and ruled out innocent explanations, such as accidental poisoning.
“I think we can eliminate this possibility because, as you can imagine, you cannot find polonium everywhere. It’s a very rare toxic substance,” Mangin told The Associated Press.
Palestinian officials, including Arafat’s successor, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, had no comment on the substance of the report but promised a continued investigation.
The findings are certain to revive Palestinian allegations against Israel, a nuclear power. Polonium can be a byproduct of the chemical processing of uranium, but usually is made artificially in a nuclear reactor or a particle accelerator.
“We couldn’t be bothered to” kill him, Hirschson said. “If anyone remembers the political reality at the time, Arafat was completely isolated. His own people were barely speaking to him. There’s no logical reason for Israel to have wanted to do something like this.”
Polonium-210 is the same substance that killed KGB agent-turned-Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.
“It’s quite difficult to understand why (Arafat) might have had any polonium, if he was just in his headquarters in Ramallah,” said Alastair Hay, a professor of environmental toxicology at the University of Leeds who was not involved in the investigation.
“He wasn’t somebody who was moving in and out of atomic energy plants or dealing with radioactive isotopes.”
Photo: Swiss professor Francois Bochud, left, director of Switzerland’s Institute of Radiation Physics, and Swiss professor Patrice Mangin, right, director of the Lausanne University Hospital’s forensics center, speak on a forensics report during a press conference at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois in Lausanne, Switzerland, Nov. 7, 2013. Swiss, French and Russian teams took samples of the remains after exhuming Arafat’s body in Ramallah and submitted results to the Palestinian Authority on November 5.
As a reminder:
Arafat Headquarters Bombed to Ruin
March 11, 2002
GAZA CITY — It was a vivid symbol of his power and of the state he expected to create and lead. But much of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s headquarters lay in ruins Sunday after Israeli warships and combat helicopters blasted the building from the air and sea with about 35 missiles in 45 minutes.
The attack came in retaliation for a pair of horrific Palestinian assaults Saturday–a suicide bombing at a crowded Jerusalem cafe and a shooting rampage at a hotel in the town of Netanya that left 16 people dead and about 100 wounded.
Photo: Rattling through Ramallah’s near deserted streets it takes some effort to remember that this was supposed to be the capital of the Palestinian state-to-be.
As a reminder:
Brussels, Nov 28 2001 (IPS) – A group of Israelis have filed a complaint holding Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat responsible for a series of bomb attacks and murders stretching back more than a quarter of a century.
“We have come from Israel to demand justice for the victims of the 30-year career of Yasser Arafat,” said Meir Indor, head of the Terror Victims’ Association, a group that includes a survivor of a 1974 attack by Palestinian gunmen on Israeli high school students in which 22 people were killed and 60 wounded.
The Israeli lawsuit takes advantage of a controversial Belgian legislation that empowers the nation’s courts to prosecute individuals – including heads of state – in cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, regardless of where the incidents occur or whether the accused person’s presence on Belgian soil.
About 100 people, many Belgian Jews, demonstrated Tuesday outside the Palace of Justice in Brussels in support of the Israeli plaintiffs. They carried banners proclaiming “Belgians and Israelis against terrorism.”
Lawyers representing the plaintiffs said the complaint holds the Arafat and Palestinian Authority figures responsible for a suicide bombing of a Jerusalem pizzeria this August that killed 16 people.
“The plaintiffs are people who were wounded, or whose relatives were wounded or killed, in attacks committed over the past 30 years in Israel, but also in Belgium,” one lawyer, Jacob Rubin, told reporters as he left the courthouse.
The Israeli group’s action came a day before a Brussels court was due to consider whether to proceed with a lawsuit brought under the same legislation by Palestinian and Lebanese plaintiffs against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon over a 1982 massacre of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied Lebanon that left 800 to 1,500 people dead.
Like the laws that permitted General Augusto Pinochet’s arrest in London on a warrant from a Spanish judge for crimes committed largely in Chile, the Belgian law is based on the principle of “universal jurisdiction,” applicable to the most egregious atrocities.
This mechanism, which was given explicit expression by the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II, recognises that all states have an interest in bringing to justice the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of international concern, no matter where the crime was committed, and regardless of the nationality of the perpetrators or their victims.
William Goldnadel, another lawyer for the Israeli and Belgian plaintiffs, said their suit was in no way connected with that against Sharon. The Palestinians’ delegation to Brussels, however, has dismissed the Israeli group’s complaint as being politically motivated.
“The aim of this complaint is to deflect attention of opinion from the continuous (human rights) violations by Israel,” the delegation said in a statement in which it also pledged to cooperate with Belgian authorities.
Some Belgian politicians are eager to tone done or scrap the law, arguing that it has turned Belgium into a magnet for all the world’s human rights cases – a caseload the country cannot handle.
Belgian Foreign Minister, Louis Michel, has made clear the government wants to amend the law, which blurs the line between the country’s federal and judicial powers, to prevent future prosecutions of sitting heads of state or government.
The Sharon case embarrassed the Belgian government when it caused the Israeli prime minister not to visit European Union headquarters in Brussels. The case has also hurt Israeli relations with Belgium, which now holds the rotating EU presidency and as such is at the helm of the EU’s post- Sept. 11 effort to push for peace in the Middle East.
Sharon’s lawyers will argue before a Brussels appeals court this week that the law cannot apply to defendants who are not present on Belgian soil and will contest the lifting of diplomatic immunity that allows prosecutions to take place.