A Swiss laboratory says that at the time of his 2004 death, the Palestinian leader’s body contained high levels of polonium, the radioactive element which killed Russian spy-turned-dissident Alexander Litvinenko after it was slipped into his tea at a London restaurant in 2006. Via Al Jazeera:
Eight years after his death, it remains a mystery exactly what killed the longtime Palestinian leader. Tests conducted in Paris found no obvious traces of poison in Arafat’s system. Rumors abound about what might have killed him – cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, even allegations that he was infected with HIV.
A nine-month investigation by Al Jazeera has revealed that none of those rumors were true: Arafat was in good health until he suddenly fell ill on October 12, 2004.
More importantly, tests [at the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland] reveal that Arafat’s final personal belongings – his clothes, his toothbrush, his iconic kaffiyeh – contained abnormal levels of polonium, a rare, highly radioactive element. “I can confirm to you that we measured an unexplained, elevated amount of unsupported polonium-210 in the belongings of Mr. Arafat that contained stains of biological fluids,” said Dr. Francois Bochud, the director of the institute.
The findings have led Suha Arafat, his widow, to ask the Palestinian Authority to exhume her late husband’s body from its grave in Ramallah. If tests show that Arafat’s bones contain high levels of polonium, it would be more conclusive proof that he was poisoned, doctors say.
Polonium’s most famous victim was Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian spy-turned-dissident who died in London in 2006 after a lingering illness. A British inquiry found that he was poisoned with polonium slipped into his tea at a sushi restaurant.
At least two people connected with Israel’s nuclear program also reportedly died after exposure to the element, according to the limited literature on the subject.