France wraps up Arafat death investigation, concludes Israel not to blame

Suha Arafat accuses Israel of assassination. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)

Suha Arafat accuses Israel of assassination. (AP/Jacques Brinon)

The French investigation into the death of PA chairman Yasser Arafat has come to an end. French forensics experts concluded, based on samples from his grave, that Israel did not assassinate him.

By Lauren Calin, World Israel News

French judges have concluded their investigation into the death of Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat. Arafat’s widow, Suha, accused Israel of assassinating him, despite her refusal to allow an autopsy at the time of his death. Forensic experts have already indicated that there is no evidence to support the claim.

“The judges have closed their dossier and it was sent to the prosecutor on April 30,” the prosecutor’s office told AFP. The prosecutor now has three months to decide whether to dismiss the case or bring it to court.

Israel had confined Arafat to his compound in Ramallah since 2001 due to his direct role in stoking the Second Intifada, during which Palestinian terrorists killed approximately 1,000 Israeli citizens, of whom three-quarters were civilians. The 75-year-old PA leader, an arch-terrorist, was flown to France in October 2004 after developing symptoms ascribed by his personal physician to a flu. He died on November 11. French doctors said the cause of death was a massive hemorrhagic stroke. Senior Palestinian officials refused to release Arafat’s medical records, and his wife declined an autopsy.

Numerous conspiracy theories surfaced around Arafat’s death, but they were only given life in 2012 when Suha Arafat lodged a complaint with a court in Nanterre, France, saying that her husband had been assassinated. The basis of the complaint was a forensic investigation of personal items provided by Mrs. Arafat for an al-Jazeera documentary that revealed contamination by polonium-210.

Yasser Arafat's Tomb

Honor Guard at Yasser Arafat’s tomb. (Wikipedia/TristamSparks)

European forensic teams then took samples from Arafat’s grave for testing. A French team concluded: “The polonium-210 and lead-210 found in Arafat’s grave and in the samples are of an environmental nature,” as Nanterre prosecutor Catherine Denis said last month. A Swiss team refused to rule out the possibility of assassination, though it later came to light that the Swiss investigation was directly funded by Mrs. Arafat and by the PA.

Conspiracy theories are a consistent feature of contemporary Arab politics. A 2013 poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah found that fully 80% of Palestinians believe that Yasser Arafat was assassinated. While 59% of respondents blamed Israel for his death, one-fifth of those surveyed said that a rival Palestinian party or organization was the likely culprit.