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Arafat's body to be exhumed for poison test

The body of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will be exhumed this week to investigate allegations he was poisoned, a senior Palestinian official said.

Arafat's tomb in the West Bank city of Ramallah will be opened Tuesday, Tawfiq Tirawi, a member of the Palestinian Authority's central committee, said yesterday.

Arafat died in 2004. His widow, Suha, had requested an autopsy to search for traces of a poisonous substance. She told Al Jazeera in July that a Swiss laboratory had detected high levels of the radioactive isotope polonium in Arafat's clothes, which have been in storage since his death.

Palestinians have accused Israel of causing Arafat's death, though no proof has been presented publicly. Israel denies killing him.

The process of opening Arafat's grave will be medically and legally supervised by the Palestinian Authority with experts from Switzerland, France and Russia, Tirawi said in Ramallah. The tomb will be closed again within a few hours after testing, and no member of the Arafat family will be present, he said.

"The file of this case will be opened until we get to the person who did it," Tirawi said.

Arafat, who founded the Palestine Liberation Organization, died in a French hospital at the age of 75. Doctors said he suffered from a brain hemorrhage and fell into a coma. He is buried below a glass tomb adjacent to the offices of his successor, Mahmoud Abbas.

Polonium, which had been stirred into a cup of tea, was identified as the substance that killed Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent who became a critic of the Russian government. Litvinenko died in 2006 after being poisoned in London.


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