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France drops Arafat poisoning investigation

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French judges investigating claims that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was murdered have closed the case without bringing any charges, a prosecutor said.

“At the end of the investigation … it has not been demonstrated that Mr Yasser Arafat was murdered by polonium-210 poisoning,” the three judges ruled on Wednesday, according to the prosecutor at Nanterre court near Paris.

The decision was blasted as biased by lawyers for Arafat’s widow Suha and rejected by the Palestinian Authority’s own inquiry committee.

Arafat died in Percy military hospital near Paris aged 75 in November 2004 after developing stomach pains while at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Many Palestinians accuse Israel of poisoning Arafat, a charge flatly denied by the Israeli government.

Arafat’s widow has claimed he was poisoned after an Al Jazeera investigation showed that the Palestinian leader had abnormal levels of highly radioactive polonium in his bones and belongings.

But the judges ruled it out, saying there was “not sufficient evidence of an intervention by a third party who could have attempted to take his life”, the prosecutor said.

Suha Arafat filed suit in 2012 at the Nanterre court.

The same year, the Al Jazeera investigation triggered Arafat’s exhumation from his tomb in Ramallah to allow three teams of French, Swiss, and Russian investigators to collect around 60 samples.

Three French judges concluded their investigations in April and sent their findings to the Nanterre prosecutor, who recommended in July that the case be dropped.

Palestinians undeterred

A centre in the Swiss city of Lausanne had tested biological samples taken from Arafat’s belongings that were given to his widow after his death, and found the “abnormal levels of polonium”.

But it stopped short of saying that he had been poisoned by the substance.

French experts found that the isotopes polonium-210 and lead-210, found in Arafat’s grave and in the samples, were of “an environmental nature”, Nanterre prosecutor Catherine Denis said in April.

Lawyers for Arafat’s widow said the investigation had been “fundamentally biased” and accused the judges of closing the probe too quickly.

“The lack of investigation leads inevitably to the conclusion that there is insufficient evidence,” the lawyers said, calling for more experts to be questioned.

The head of the Palestinian Authority’s inquiry committee on Wednesday refused to accept the judges’ conclusions.

The Palestinian committee has still not presented its conclusions on the death of the veteran leader, a joint winner of the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize.

“We’ll continue our investigation to reach the killer of Arafat, until we know how Arafat was killed,” Tawfiq Tirawi told AFP news agency. Al Jazeera

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