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Yasser Arafat Corpse to Be Exhumed Next Week in Poison Probe

Former Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat
Former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, seen here in July 2004, died in a French hospital at the age of 75. Photographer: Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images

The corpse of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will be exhumed next week to investigate allegations he was poisoned, a senior Palestinian official said.

Arafat’s tomb in the West Bank city of Ramallah will be opened on Nov. 27, Tawfiq Tirawi, a member of the Palestinian Authority’s central committee, said today.

Arafat’s wife, Suha, had requested an autopsy to search for traces of a poisonous substance. She told Al Jazeera in July that a Swiss laboratory had detected high levels of the radioactive isotope polonium in Arafat’s clothes, which have been in storage since his death in 2004. Palestinians have accused Israel of causing Arafat’s death, though no conclusive evidence has been presented publicly. Israel denies killing him.

The process of opening Arafat’s grave will be medically and legally supervised by the Palestinian Authority with teams of experts from Switzerland, France and Russia, Tirawi told reporters in Ramallah. The tomb will be closed again within a few hours after testing, and no member of the Arafat family will be present, he said.

“The file of this case will be opened until we get to the person who did it,” Tirawi said.

Arafat, who founded the Palestine Liberation Organization, died in a French hospital at the age of 75. Doctors at the Percy military hospital in Clamart, France, said he suffered from a brain hemorrhage and fell into a coma before he died. He is buried below a glass tomb adjacent to the offices of his successor, Mahmoud Abbas.

Polonium, which had been stirred into a cup of tea, was identified as the substance that killed Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent who became a critic of the Russian government. Litvinenko died in 2006 after being poisoned in London.

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