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Official raises suspicion over Arafat’s death

Yasser Arafat’s nephew said Saturday the lack of a diagnosis of what led to his uncle’s death in November raised suspicions the late Palestinian leader died of “unnatural” causes.
09/11/2004. Palestinians paying a last tribute to their leader Yasser Arafat
Palestinians pay a final tribute to their leader Yasser Arafat.Quidu Noel / Gamma Press
/ Source: The Associated Press

Yasser Arafat’s nephew said Saturday the lack of a clear reason for his uncle’s death raised suspicions the Palestinian leader died of “unnatural” causes.

The comments by Nasser al-Kidwa, after he handed over the 558-page medical dossier to Palestinian officials in Ramallah, were certain to fuel speculation that Arafat was poisoned. Arafat died in a French hospital on Nov. 11.

Rumors and speculation among Palestinians and the broader Arab world that Arafat was poisoned could make it more difficult for a new leadership to take control. Palestinian presidential elections are scheduled for Jan. 9.

Al-Kidwa, who is also the Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, repeated his statement from last month that the French doctors were unable to rule out the possibility that Arafat had been poisoned, although they said they had not found traces of “any poison known to them.”

“Examinations of X-rays and all imaginable tests ... are still with the same results, the inability of reaching a clear diagnosis,” Al-Kidwa said in English at a news conference in Ramallah on Saturday.

“That is precisely the reason why suspicions are there, because without a reason you cannot escape the other possibility ... that there is unnatural cause for the death,” he said.

Al-Kidwa received Arafat’s dossier from French medical officials last month. On Saturday he gave the records to interim Palestinian President Rauhi Fattouh in Ramallah. A committee, including Tunisian, Jordanian and Egyptian doctors who treated Arafat, was due to begin consultations on Saturday to try to determine the cause of death.

Al-Kidwa and other Palestinian officials have said Israel contributed to Arafat’s death by confining him to his battered West Bank compound for the last three years of his life.

Palestinian Health Minister Jawad Tibi said Saturday the committee appointed to study the medical records would be composed of Palestinian and Arab doctors who treated Arafat before he was urgently airlifted to Paris on Oct. 29.

Al-Kidwa said Palestinian officials would pursue their investigation until they reach a clear conclusion, and vowed to make the diagnosis public. “This file should remain open until the Palestinian people find out the truth,” he said.