France opens inquiry into Yasser Arafat’s death

The Tribunal de Grande Instance de Nanterre announced Aug. 28 that a three-judge panel will investigate the death of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The investigation was prompted in August by Arafat’s widow and daughter after an  Al Jazeera investigation discovered traces of polonium-210 on his final effects. The Institut de Radiophysiquemedical records released by Slate do not suggest radiation poisoning was apparent.

Polonium-210 is best known as the poison used to kill former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006. Arafat’s health began to fail in October 2004, at which point he was flown to a Paris hospital. Arafat died at age 75 on November 11, 2004. The week leading up to Arafat’s death proved to be highly tumultuous. Only a day before an Islamic judge ruled that the former leader’s life support system could not be switched off despite his near-death state and burial preparations. On Nov. 4 CBC News reported that Israeli television had announced Arafat’s death, only to be contradicted shortly thereafter by Arafat’s French hospital. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker also confirmed the head of state’s death that day. No cause of death for Arafat has ever been released, and by many accounts, he was in good health until immediately preceding his death.

From Jurist, Aug. 29. Used with permission.