Preparing to exhume Arafat

Yasser Arafat.

PARIS — Workers have sealed off the tomb of the former Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, in Ramallah in preparation for the exhumation of his body.

Officials plan to dig up his remains in the coming weeks to allow scientists to ascertain whether his death in Paris in 2004 was caused by poisoning.

France began a murder inquiry in August after Swiss experts found radioactive polonium-210 on his personal effects.

Arafat’s medical records say he had a stroke resulting from a blood disorder.

His widow, Suha, objected to a post-mortem at the time, but has appealed to the Palestinian Authority to permit the exhumation “to reveal the truth”.

Arafat’s body lies in a stone-clad mausoleum inside the Muqataa presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

A source close to the Arafat family told the AFP news agency that workers had already started removing concrete and stones from the mausoleum.

“There are several phases,” the source added. “It starts with the removal of stone and concrete and cutting the iron [framework] until they reach the soil that covers the body, which will not be removed until the arrival of the French prosecutors, Swiss experts and Russian investigators.”

No date has been set for the exhumation, but the source said preparatory work would take about 15 days. (BBC)

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