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Russia experts to participate in Arafat exhumation

Nov. 24, 2012 12:05 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 25, 2012 2:03 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) – Russian experts will help exhume Yasser Arafat’s body in December, the spokesman of the Russian foreign ministry Alexander Lukashevich said Saturday.

Palestinian ambassador to Russia Faed Mustafa also confirmed that a team of Russian experts would arrive in Ramallah for that purpose.

Mustafa highlighted that the Palestinian Authority was prioritizing the autopsy of Arafat’s body, and it believes Russian experts will help reveal his cause of death.

“The Palestinians chose Russian experts because Russia is a friend of the Palestinian people and Russian experts are highly qualified,” he said.

French forensic experts arrived in the West Bank on Thursday to oversee the exhumation.

A French court in August opened a murder inquiry into Arafat's death after a Swiss institute said it had discovered high levels of radioactive polonium on the Palestinian leader's clothing, which was supplied by his widow, Suha.

The French judiciary has formally tasked the Palestinian public prosecution will collecting evidence for the inquiry, and the French experts will act as advisers to Palestinian forensic staff, Abbas legal aide Hassan al-Arouri told Ma'an.

Arafat's body will be exhumed for testing on Monday, and then reburied in a military funeral, al-Arouri said.

The exhumation and forensic testing with be overseen by French and Palestinian experts, but media and Arafat's family will not be present, he said.

The late president's direct kin have rejected an exhumation.

"We say openly that our leader, our founder was assassinated by Israel with poison. The overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people is convinced of this," Nasser al-Kidwa, Arafat's nephew and a senior official in Abbas's Fatah group, said Saturday.

"Some have spread about the repugnant idea that Arafat's tomb should be opened up and desecrated. There is no justification for this: we know the real truth," he said.

No autopsy was carried out when Arafat died, aged 75, in keeping with his widow's original request. He had been effectively confined by Israel to his compound for two and a half years before flying to France for emergency medical care.
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