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PA says will take Israel to ICC if tests prove Arafat assassinated
Published Tuesday 27/11/2012 (updated) 28/11/2012 21:37
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Members of an honor guard leave after a wreath laying
ceremony near the grave of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah on
Nov. 27, 2012. (Reuters/Ammar Awad)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Authority will start legal proceedings against Israel at the International Criminal Court if forensic tests prove that President Yasser Arafat was murdered, chief investigator Tawfiq Tirawi said Tuesday.

"We have evidence and indications that (Arafat) was killed, including remarks by Israeli leaders that they must get rid of Arafat, but we need evidence to submit to the International Criminal Court," Tirawi told reporters at a news conference in Ramallah.

Forensic experts took samples from Arafat's uncovered corpse in Ramallah on Tuesday, trying to determine if he was murdered by Israeli agents using the hard-to-trace radioactive poison Polonium.

Tirawi, who heads the committee investigating Arafat's death, told reporters that samples taken by Russian, Swiss and French experts would leave Ramallah on Tuesday.

He added that the Palestinian general prosecution supervised all the legal and medical procedures which took place over the past few days.

"The corpse of the late Palestinian leader was touched only by Palestinian hands. The Palestinian medical team took the samples and gave them to other teams as requested," Tirawi said.

Arafat died as a martyr for the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, Tirawi said, noting that the exhumation happened to coincide with Palestine's submission of a resolution seeking "observer state" status at the UN.

"(A Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital) is what Yasser Arafat always said and today he repeated it from his grave," added Tirawi.

In Gaza City, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said he backed the PA's efforts.

Haniyeh told reporters that "the case of Yasser Araft is a distinguished national case because he was an iconic revolutionary and leader of the Palestinian people."

Palestinians witnessed the funeral of their hero and longtime leader eight years ago, but conspiracy theories surrounding his death have never been laid to rest.

Many are convinced their icon was the victim of a cowardly assassination, and may stay convinced whatever the outcome of this autopsy. But some in the city of Ramallah where he lies deplored the uncovering of his body Tuesday.

"This is wrong. After all this time, today they suddenly want to find out the truth?" said construction worker Ahmad Yousef, 31. "They should have done it eight years ago," he said.

Arafat's body was uncovered in its grave and samples were removed without having to lift the corpse from the ground. As a result, the planned reburial ceremony with full military honors was called off.

The tomb was resealed in hours and wreaths were placed by Palestinian leaders including PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

"The state of the body was exactly what you would expect to find for someone who has been buried for eight years. There was nothing out of the ordinary," Health Minister Hani Abdeen told a news conference.

French magistrates in August opened a murder inquiry into Arafat's death in Paris in 2004 after a Swiss institute said it had discovered high levels of polonium on clothing of his which was supplied by his widow, Suha, for a television documentary.

Results in spring 2013

Jordanian doctor Abdullah al Bashir, head of the Palestinian medical committee, said about 20 samples were taken and analysis would take at least three months.

"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," said Darcy Christen, spokesman for Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland that carried out the original tests on Arafat's clothes.

Arafat led the bid for a Palestinian state through years of war and peacemaking, then died in a French hospital aged 75 after a short, mysterious illness.

No autopsy was carried out at the time, at the request of Suha, and French doctors who treated him said they were unable to determine the cause of death.

But allegations of foul play surfaced immediately, and many Palestinians pointed the finger at Israel, which confined Arafat to his headquarters in Ramallah for the final two and a half years of his life after a Palestinian uprising erupted.

Israel denies murdering him. Its leader at the time, Ariel Sharon, now lies in a coma from which he is expected never to awake. Israel invited the Palestinian leadership to release all Arafat's medical records, which were never made public following his death and still have not been opened.

Polonium, apparently ingested with food, was found to have caused the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006. But some experts have questioned whether Arafat could have died in this way, pointing to a brief recovery during his illness that they said was not consistent with radioactive poisoning. They also noted he did not lose all his hair.

Eight years is considered the limit to detect any traces of the fast-decaying polonium and Lausanne hospital questioned in August if it would be worth seeking any samples, if access to Arafat's body was delayed as late as "October or November."

Not all of Arafat's family agreed to the exhumation.

Arafat's widow watched her husband's exhumation on television from her house in Malta.

"This will bring closure, we will know the truth about why he died. I owe this answer to the Palestinian people, to the new generation, and to his daughter," a tearful Suha told the Times of Malta.

Reuters contributed to this report.
1 ) all nice stuff. / no man's land
27/11/2012 18:11
With all the support for the Palestinian cause, I'd say Palestinian officials should read some basic legal documents - like the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court - before making silly threats. Even if Arafat was poisoned by Israel, the ICC would not deal with a single case of murder. The Court prosecutes large scale crimes, like genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Seriously, a bit more professionalism on the part of the PA would be appreciated.

2 ) Hosam / Palestine
27/11/2012 18:34
Why not take Isreal to ICC for the many Palestinians assassinated under strange circumstance ..ie Naji al-Ali, abu Jihad ,abu Iyad,abu Ali Mustafa .........to name afew ... rip Yasser Arafat.. a great leader..

3 ) Colin Wright / USA
27/11/2012 20:03
Is the PA suggesting Israel doesn't have the right to murder whomever it pleases? This is absurd: it would follow that Israel is bound by the same moral strictures as other nations. Israel is EXEMPT from moral considerations. You gotta wrap your head around this or you can never become a true Israel lover.

4 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
27/11/2012 20:19
Why not take the PA and/or Hamas and/or Fatah to the ICC for the decades of Palestinian war crimes? Bombings, rockets, shootings - all aimed at civilians and under the command and approval of Palestinian officials. And all war crimes - don't believe me when I say it because Amnesty, HRW and even Judge Goldstone said they are war crimes. Abbas and Haniyeh and Mashaal sharing a jail cell!

5 ) SCapache / USA
27/11/2012 20:47
IsraeHELL has committed genocide on Palestinians for along time. Its time Zionist folks be held accountable. If it doesnt happen in this lifetime surely on the Day of Judgment they will be held accountable when facing God. Im Native American in Arizona and my people likewise have been through what the Palestinians endure. The Nazis used the same policies USA forced upon the Natives against the Jews. Now the descendants of those Jews employ the same tactics and policies on Palestinians.

6 ) PLO teaches Israel from where / the FISH PISSES
27/11/2012 20:59
Israel is being defeated at the UNITED NATIONS like a small boy KUDOS ABU MAZEN!!!!!

7 ) Amira / Canada
27/11/2012 21:02
I guess the labs are already infiltrated by israeli agents to remove any trace of culpability and replace it with something else. Do you think that they are just watching and waiting for the outcome?

8 ) Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh / ZLOLOLOL
27/11/2012 21:03
now he is PRIME MINISTER??? that means that GAZA IS A RECOGNIZED STATE AND GOVERNMENT-- when is it going to the UNITED NATIONS????

9 ) Mustafa / US
27/11/2012 21:24
Arafat stole hundreds of millions from Palestinian coffers, im sure one of his criminial buddies killed him. Any surprise his family lives in Paris and Malta and NOT in Palestine land.

10 ) Tibi / Tubas
27/11/2012 21:53
The PLO is more likely to have poisoned Arafat,
but they will blame Israel still, without proof.

11 ) shirley / australia
27/11/2012 22:14
there is no doubt arrafat poisened stupid comment by ABBASS dont you think FRANCE woulkd have admitted he died of natural causes if he HAD instead of saying unknown and in begining mentioned thallium poisoning then went quiet and destroyed all proof that is why handing back to france this inquiry and samples of clothing later what is trying to say and everyone knows no matter howPA try to cover it up that someone close to ARRAfat got him killed

12 ) @ Hossam #2 / If, Then, And ...
27/11/2012 23:28
IF in fact Palestine will actually take Israel to ICC for something, that ISRAEL MAY HAVE DONE ONCE, before Palestine was a state, THEN Israel can definitely take Palestine to ICC for something, that Palestine DEFINITELY DID 1,000s OF TIME (rockets fired at cities), before Palestine was a state, AND ICC findings regarding Israel will be inconclusive, while Palestine will be found guilty !!!

13 ) Outlier / USA
28/11/2012 00:59
Presumption - especially one unsupported by evidence - does not constitute proof.

14 ) John / uk
28/11/2012 03:10
Bizarrely you will find the ICC very unlikely to be interested in political murder of opponents. It certainly isn't "illegal" for states to bump off their opponents, even if in a post-human rights world they might have to compensate the families. And on another tack, if it was polonium, might it have been the Russians?

15 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
28/11/2012 08:45
Strange how my comments are not being posted...

16 ) cap / AwayfromJews
28/11/2012 11:33
Nice move Palestinians!! When will you learn to lie and to be quiet about your plans...Israel does it so well. Why not trying to be more like them if you want things done in your favor. Keep it to yourselves! Shhhhhh!

17 ) Sarah / Holland
28/11/2012 16:49
@12 I don't think so, ICC is not the IDF that never investigate. IDF is telling this and doing the other thing. You "Israelis" buy their words without any checking. ICC will be neutral, always, so "Israel" will pay the price.

18 ) carine / UK
28/11/2012 19:05
#15 - You're not the only one Brian, nor was my reply to you at #4 - so here it is again. "Abbas and Haniyeh and Mashaal sharing a jail cell!" Yeah! - with Olmert, Livni, Netanyahu, Leiberman, Barak etc.

19 ) Giacomo / USA
28/11/2012 20:19
"The Palestinian general prosecution supervised all the legal and medical procedures" - thank goodness, we were worried this wasn't going to be legitimate.
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