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Palestinian Govt. Asks Swiss Lab to Test Arafat Remains For Radiation

The Palestinian Authority has asked a Swiss laboratory to perform an autopsy on the corpse of Yasser Arafat to determine whether he was killed by radiation poisoning, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday (see GSN, July 31).

The Swiss Institut de Radiophysique in July revealed it had found high amounts of the radioactive isotope polonium 210 on personal effects belonging to the deceased Palestinian leader. The Swiss scientists in announcing their findings emphasized they could not conclusively determine the origins of the polonium or whether the radioactive source had killed Arafat. The researchers said a full autopsy would be needed to decisively determine whether he suffered a fatal exposure to radiation.

No official cause of death has been determined for Assad, who died in 2004 at a French military medical center after suffering a severe stroke. A number of conspiracy theories have sprouted over the years, with Israel considered by many theorists as the most likely culprit. Palestinian officials would like to see an international investigation that is empowered to subpoena the testimony of Israeli officials.

The Palestinian Authority's lead investigator in the death of Arafat, Tawfik Tirawi, said a formal request had been made for the Swiss laboratory to send scientists to the West Bank to carry out the autopsy.

"We are currently studying how to adequately respond to this demand," Swiss Institut spokesman Darcy Christen said on Wednesday. "Meanwhile, our main concern is to guarantee independence, the credibility and the transparency of any possible involvement on our side (Mohammed Daraghmeh, Associated Press/Google News, Aug. 8).

Tirawi said the Swiss institute wanted guarantees from the Palestinian Authority before it dispatched its scientists. He did not specify what kind of promises the laboratory was looking for, Reuters reported.

"The content of our correspondence pertained to the necessity of their arrival and our welcoming of their presence in Palestine as quickly as possible, but they have some legal issues and legal procedures," he said to journalists.

"We've asked for (the Swiss team's) arrival at full speed ... the [Palestinian] leadership has resolved to grant them any investigations they might request," Tirawi said (Noah Browning, Reuters I, Aug. 8).

Polonium 210 was most famously used in 2006 to kill Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko via tainted tea in London. The British government on Thursday announced it would conduct a judicial probe of the killing, Reuters reported.

British authorities have connected Andrei Lugovoi, a KGB veteran who is now a Russian lawmaker, to Litvinenko's death. Russia has refused to send him to the United Kingdom for trial (see GSN, Feb. 29).

"This was a crime which took place in the U.K. and involved a British citizen. Our aim remains to see this matter tried in a U.K. court," a British government spokesman said (Tim Castle, Reuters II/Yahoo!News, Aug. 9).

Note to our Readers

GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

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