Acknowledging insufficient evidence to support theory that PA president died of polonium poisoning, the Palestinian investigators say Israel is only suspect in Arafat’s murder.
The commission set up to investigate the circumstances of former Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s death presented their findings in a press conference in Ramallah on Friday.
The two teams of investigators, Swiss and Russian, did not find any conclusive evidence, Dr. Abdullah Bashir, the chairman of the medical committee, said.
“The outcome of the comprehensive report on the levels of Polonium-210 and the development of his illness does not give sufficient evidence to support the decision that Polonium-210 caused acute radiation syndrome leading to death,” he said, quoting conclusions of the Russian report.
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Bashir, a Palestinian physician from Jordan, who was also one of Arafat’s doctors, added that the two reports did establish that Arafat’s death was not due to natural causes but the late PA president was in fact murdered.
However, Bashir emphasized, neither the Russian nor the Swiss team could determine with any degree of certainty which drug was used to poison him, although a large quantity of polonium residue was found in the remains of Arafat’s body.
The forensic and radiological experts at Lausanne University Hospital Center said the result of their work “moderately” supported the allegations that Arafat had died from the radioactive metal.
Palestinian official Tawfik Tirawi, who heads the investigative committee, stated that the basic goal of the investigation was to arrive at a clear answer as to the circumstances of Arafat’s death.
The reports and the investigation, which involved thousands of hours of research and examinations and the gathering of hundreds of testimonies, are all aimed at answering the question as to who was behind the assassination.
According to Tirawi, Israel is the prime suspect – in fact, the only suspect – in Arafat’s assassination.
Tirawi added that they would continue with a thorough investigation in order to expose all the facts. He said that all their information and testimonies were drawing them near to a validation of their assessments.
“He did not die of old age and not of an illness,” said commission head Tawfik Tirawi said when asked whether former Prime Minster Ariel Sharon or former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz were responsible for the assassination.
According to Tirawi, both Sharon and Mofaz are suspects along with all of Israel’s political and military leaders at the time. He added that the circle of suspects was slowly getting tighter and tighter and that the Palestinian leadership would spare no effort to get to the whole truth in order to bring the suspects to justice, whether in a local trial or an international one.
Palestinian Justice Minister Ali Muhanna stated that there was a need for an undertaking of additional measures in order to prepare an infrastructure of evidence to bring the suspects to justice, especially when the suspect is a country like Israel.
The accusation was made after Energy Minister Silvan Shalom vehemently denied Israel was to blame for Arafat’s death. “We never made a decision to harm him physically,” Shalom, who in 2004 served as foreign minister and as a member of Israel’s security cabinet, told Israel Radio on Thursday.
Arafat, a guerrilla leader who became the Palestinians’ first president affectionately known by the nom de guerre Abu Ammar, contracted a sudden and mysterious illness while surrounded by Israeli tanks in his compound in Ramallah. Palestinians have long accused Israel of poisoning Arafat, who died in 2004 in a French military hospital outside of Paris. He was 75.
View original HAARETZ publication at: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.557010