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Wednesday
Nov062013

Report: Yasser Arafat Was Poisoned with Radioactive Polonium

ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A Swiss forensics investigation claims that former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned with radioactive polonium, the TV channel Al Jazeera reported Wednesday.

In the 108-page report, the scientists say they found at least 18 times the normal levels of polonium in his rib, pelvis and in soil stained with his decaying organs.

The investigation, a year in the making, concludes that Arafat had ''unexpectedly high levels'' of polonium and that ''the results moderately support the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with polonium.''

A Palestinian forensic investigator removed 20 specimens from Arafat's grave in the West Bank city of Ramallah in November 2012. His body was reinterred the same day. The samples from his corpse and grave were taken in front of three international teams.

Leading forensic pathologist David Barclay told Al Jazeera that ''if I was a judge and jury, this is absolutely stone-cold certain. This is beyond any doubt in my opinion that it was polonium that caused the death of Yasser Arafat."

Arafat's medical records state that he died in 2004 from a blood disorder that led to a stroke. But eight years after his death, an investigation by Al Jazeera in July 2012 called ''What Killed Arafat'' revealed a rare, highly radioactive element on some of his personal items, including his clothes and toothbrush. That prompted the new forensics testing. A Swiss lab in Lausanne tested these items, which contained Arafat's blood, sweat, saliva and urine.

It was his widow, Suha Arafat, who asked the Palestinian Authority to exhume his body for further tests. She told Al Jazeera Wednesday that the results reveal "a real crime, a political assassination."

"This has confirmed all our doubts," she added. "It is scientifically proved that he didn't die a natural death and we have scientific proof that this man was killed."

However, the report has caveats. The Swiss investigators admit there are several critical problems with their investigation, namely that their findings are based on limited samples and that eight years had passed between his death and testing so the ''chain of custody'' of some of the specimens was unclear.

There are also three separate parallel investigations being conducted by French, Russian and Palestinian experts. Last month, one Russian official said that no traces of polonium had been found. Vladimir Uiba, head of the Russian Federal Medico-Biological Agency, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that Arafat "could not have been poisoned with polonium," noting that tests carried out by Russian experts "found no traces of this substance."

The agency did, however, retract this report, denying that Uiba had made any official statement on the findings.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio