French prosecutors have begun a murder inquiry into the 2004 death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, AFP reported Tuesday, citing “sources close to the matter.”
The formal investigation comes after Arafat’s daughter and widow last month lodged a murder complaint in France claiming that Arafat had been poisoned by the radioactive substance polonium-210, the BBC reported. Haaretz reported that investigators who carry out the inquiry will be empowered to summon witnesses.
A Swiss laboratory that had examined Arafat’s clothing at the request of his wife, Suha Arafat, and Al Jazeera, which was investigating his death, “found Polonium 210 in more elevated levels than what one might have expected,” Swiss Radiophysics Institute spokesman Darcy Christen told GlobalPost in July. However, Christen stressed at the time that “We have never said there was Polonium poisoning,” saying conclusions regarding Arafat’s death would have to be drawn from tests of his actual remains.
Arafat’s widow has agreed to the exhumation of her late husband’s remains for testing, according to AFP. The New York Times, which obtained copies of Arafat’s medical records, wrote in 2005 that “the findings [of an independent analysis] argue strongly against poisoning” and “reveal that he died of a stroke that resulted from a bleeding disorder caused by an unknown infection.”