Swiss, French and Russian scientists will conduct tests on samples taken from the body of Yasser Arafat, the first Palestinian Authority president whose official cause of death eight years ago is listed as stroke, but whose personal items were found to contain traces of polonium-210.

Exposure to polonium-210 famously killed a former Russian spy in London in 2006. (Fun fact: Polonium was first discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie and was named for Marie’s native Poland.)

Although there is speculation that Arafat may have been poisoned, the BBC reminds us that an inquiry based on his medical records conducted by The New York Times found no basis for such a claim.


In 2005, the New York Times obtained a copy of Arafat’s medical records, which it said showed he died of a massive haemorrhagic stroke that resulted from a bleeding disorder caused by an unknown infection.

Independent experts who reviewed the records told the paper that it was highly unlikely that he had been poisoned.

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Media were not allowed to view the exhumation of Arafat, although the experts sent to examine his remains were on hand. The BBC says only a Palestinian doctor was allowed to touch the body, which was not removed from the grave in Ramallah in the West Bank.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer.

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