The late leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization and first president of the Palestinian Authority died eight years ago, but questions still linger.
French prosecutors opened a murder inquiry into the death of Yasser Arafat on Tuesday, his widow's lawyer said, after she and a TV investigation raised new questions about whether the Palestinian leader was poisoned.
There have long been rumors in the Arab world that Arafat was poisoned, and a Swiss lab's recent finding of elevated levels of polonium-210 — a rare and highly lethal radioactive substance — on Arafat's clothing has fed those claims.
However, the Institute of Radiation Physics said its findings were inconclusive and that only exhuming Arafat's remains could bring possible clarity. Palestinian officials have waffled on that matter — initially approving the exhumation and then saying the matter needed more study — only further fueling suspicions.
Arafat died in a French military hospital in 2004 of what doctors have said was a massive stroke, but the Swiss lab's tests have renewed interest in his death. The findings were first broadcast by Arab satellite TV station Al-Jazeera, which approached the lab on behalf of Arafat's widow, Suha. She provided the lab with his clothing and other belongings.
After the results were released, Suha Arafat filed a complaint in French court asking for a murder investigation. Her lawyer, Pierre-Olivier Sur, confirmed on Tuesday that the prosecutor's office in Nanterre, a town west of Paris, has agreed to take up the matter. Next, a judge will be appointed to lead the inquiry.