French investigation into Arafat’s death goes to prosecutor

(JTA) — The French investigation into the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was sent to a Paris-area prosecutor, who has three months to decide on how to proceed.

The probe was closed last week and the evidence sent to the prosecutor in Nanterre, the French news agency AFP reported Wednesday. The prosecutor must determine whether to close the case or take it to court.

Arafat led the Palestine Liberation Organization for 35 years and became the first president of the Palestinian Authority in 1996. He fell violently ill in October 2004 and died two weeks later, at 75, in a Paris military hospital.

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Arafat’s widow, Suha, filed legal action in July 2012 asking French authorities in Nanterre to look into claims that her husband was poisoned. Traces of radioactive polonium were found on Arafat’s belongings. French prosecutors in August 2012 opened a murder inquiry into Arafat’s death.

The medical report published after Arafat’s death listed the immediate cause as a massive brain hemorrhage resulting from an infection. Doctors ruled out foul play; some contended that Arafat died of AIDS.

After the opening of the inquiry, Arafat’s tomb in Ramallah was opened to allow teams of French, Swiss and Russian investigators to collect samples.

Suha Arafat based her lawsuit on a 108-page report released to her by the University Centre of Legal Medicine in Lausanne, Switzerland, which said the theory that Arafat was poisoned is most consistent with its results. Russian experts have maintained that Arafat was not poisoned.

The French experts “maintain that the polonium 210 and lead 210 found in Arafat’s grave and in the samples are of an environmental nature,” Nanterre prosecutor Catherine Denis said last month.

Many Palestinians continue to believe that Arafat was poisoned by Israel because he was an obstacle to peace. Israel has denied any involvement. Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 along with Israeli leaders Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin.