Arafat’s Body Exhumed To Discover If He Was Poisoned

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The remains of the late Palestinian leader  Yasser Arafat were exhumed from his grave today so international forensic  experts could search for additional clues to his death.

Just hours after being removed, the corpse  was reburied with full military honours.

The exhumation began early today and  the remains were taken from the massive  mausoleum in the West Bank city of Ramallah where Arafat was buried and moved to  a nearby mosque so Palestinian doctors could take samples from his  bones.

Since his death in 2004 many in the Arab world believe Arafat, the face of the Palestinian  independence  struggle for four decades, was killed by Israel. Israel,  which saw Arafat as an  obstacle to peace, vehemently denies the charges.

Under Islam, only Muslims can handle a  Muslim’s remains.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat YM”S saying goodbye as he boarded a Jordanian army helicopter to fly to Paris to seek medical treatment. Arafat died a month later in a French military hospital

The  samples will be handed over to French, Swiss and Russian experts who have flown  in for the exhumation and who will examine them in their home countries, the  officials said.

Tawfik Tirawi, who heads the Palestinian team  investigating the death said Arafat will be reburied the same day with military  honors, but the ceremony will be closed to the public, Tirawi told a news  conference.

The whole process is set to take about 10  hours and before the exhumation, the head of the Palestinian committee  investigating Arafat’s death, Tawfik al-Tirawi, said no journalists would be  allowed to observe the exhumation.

A Palestinian is seen outside the mausoleum (L) of the former Palestinian President and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, in Ramallah, the West Bank, 26 November 2012. The mausoleum had been covered with blue plastic and a huge Palestinian flag before forensic experts exhume Arafat’s body on 27 November in order to take samples to see if it can be determined if Arafat was poisoned. EPA/ATEF SAFADI

He did not specify when results would be  announced but said the probe could take months.

Earlier this month, workers began prying open  the concrete-encased tomb in Arafat’s former government headquarters in the West  Bank city of Ramallah.

The Palestinian Authority, the  self-rule  government in the West Bank, had hesitated before agreeing to  exhume the  remains, in part because of cultural and religious  sensitivities.

Since  mid-November, the gravesite has been  surrounded with a blue tarpaulin  and roads leading to the Arafat mausoleum were  closed. Arafat is still  widely revered in the Palestinian territories, and  Palestinian officials said they don’t want the process observed by media and  others.

Earlier, samples were also taken from  Arafat’s bedroom, office and personal belongings, they said.

The new investigation into Arafat’s death was  sparked earlier this year by  the discovery of a lethal radioactive substance,  polonium, on clothing  said to be his.

The clothes were provided by Arafat’s widow,  Suha, and given to the lab by the Arab satellite TV station Al-Jazeera.

Arafat, who led the Palestine Liberation  Organisation for 35 years and became the first president of the Palestinian  Authority in 1996,  died in November 2004 in a French military hospital, a  month after suddenly falling ill.

While the immediate cause of death was a  stroke, the underlying source of an illness he suffered in his final weeks has  never been clear, leading to persistent speculation in the Arab world that  Israel poisoned him. Israel has denied such allegations.

Since his death there have been persistent  conspiracy theories that he had cancer, AIDS or was poisoned.

His widow, Suha, objected to a post-mortem at  the time, but asked the Palestinian Authority to permit the exhumation ‘to  reveal the truth.’

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal  Palmor said the Palestinians were free to take all the samples they  wanted.

‘We have nothing to fear,’ he said.

‘All the accusations against Israel are  completely ridiculous and not based on the slightest bit of  evidence.’

The exhumation might not resolve the mystery.

Polonium-210 decomposes rapidly, and some  experts say it is not clear whether any  remaining samples will be sufficient  for testing.

The former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko  died of exposure to polonium-210 in London in 2006. The UK authorities have  accused Andrei Lugovoi, an ex-KGB officer, of poisoning his tea.

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