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Yasser Arafat's grave opened for murder investigation

Forensic experts took samples from Arafat's grave to test for a radioactive poison known as polonium 210.

arafat graffitiEnlarge
A Palestinian youth stands along a side walk with a mural behind him depicting the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (R) and the late Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza City on November 11, 2012, as Palestinians commemorate the eighth anniversary of Arafat's death. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

The grave of Yasser Arafat was opened Tuesday, allowing forensic experts to collect samples to determine if the Palestinian leader was poisoned.

"The operation is finished, the tomb has been resealed and the samples have been given to the French, Swiss and Russian experts," officials from the investigating Palestinian commission told the Telegraph.

The investigation began after Al Jazeera reported on a Swiss discovery suggesting radioactive poison, polonium 210, was found on Arafat’s clothes provided by Suha Arafat, his widow. 

Darcy Christen, spokesman for Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland — where the initial test was conducted — told Reuters: "Samples will be taken according to a very strict protocol and these samples will be analyzed."

He added, "In order to do these analyses, to check, cross-check and double cross-check, it will take several months and I don't think we'll have anything tangible available before March or April next year."

The Telegraph points out polonium 210 killed Alexander Litvinenko, an ex-Russian agent critical of his government, in 2006.

Arafat’s tomb in the West Bank Ramallah compound was re-closed earlier Tuesday.

Jean-Rene Jourdain, deputy director at the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), told the AFP weeks were required to determine if the polonium was made-made or not.

He added, "Even if traces of polonium are found, it doesn't mean that they are man-made."

Regardless of what the investigations conclude, GlobalPost's Israel correspondent, Noga Tarnopolsky, expressed skepticism that the matter of how Arafat died will ever be laid to rest.

"For a long time there was a Palestinian policy of setting out lies as if they were the truth, and hoping they'd catch on, as in the infamous case of the 'Jenin massacre.' Most of these myths never take off in the Western world, but they become enshrined as persistent semi-truths in the Arab world.... The myth of the murder of Arafat, often by extravagantly baroque methods, is likely to persist forever," she wrote.

However, she added that there are signs these policies are changing.

"It was very interesting to note in the recent Gaza war that Palestinian authorities did not exaggerate the number of fatalities. For me, that was an indication that the pendulum may be shifting."

CNN reports:

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/121127/arafats-grave-opened-murder-investigat