French official: Arafat to be exhumed in November
RAMALLAH, West Bank • Criminal investigators from France will exhume Yasser Arafat's remains next month to try to find out how the Palestinian leader died, a French official said Tuesday.
The official said the team from France will arrive sometime between Nov. 24 and Nov. 26 in the West bank city of Ramallah.
Palestinian authorities confirmed the timetable and said a separate Swiss investigative team would also arrive in Ramallah at the same time. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
However, Darcy Christen, a spokeswoman for Switzerland's Institute of Radiation Physics that is expected to conduct the autopsy for the Swiss team, said no date has been confirmed yet.
The push to re-examine circumstances surrounding Arafat's November 2004 death came after a Swiss lab recently discovered traces of polonium-210, a deadly radioactive isotope, on clothes said to be his.
The discovery revived suspicions of poisoning. The immediate cause of Arafat's death was a stroke, but the underlying source of an illness he suffered in his final weeks has never been clear.
Investigators from France and Switzerland are to conduct parallel probes into Arafat's death, acting separately on behalf of Arafat's widow Suha Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, who each had misgivings about the other's investigation. Suha Arafat formally asked for a French investigation into his death this summer.
While their probes are separate, the French and the Swiss are to visit the grave together and will only be allowed one chance to draw samples, according to Palestinian officials.
Earlier in October, the Palestinians said the process of digging out Arafat's remains will be conducted privately.
But keeping the event a secret will likely be a challenge since Arafat lies in a giant mausoleum outside government headquarters in a central area of Ramallah.