The remains of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat were exhumed and quickly reburied today as scientists removed samples from his body in the hopes of learning whether or not he might have been poisoned. A team of forensic experts and doctors from France, Russia, and Switzerland took part in the 10-hour process, which required digging through the four meters of concrete covering his tomb. Al Jazeera reports that Arafat's body was not fully removed from his grave, so he will not receive a proper second funeral as was originally planned. No family members or media were allowed to observe.
Arafat died in France in 2004, at the age of 75, after a stroke following several weeks of illness. However, no autopsy was performed and even at the time there were numerous theories about his real cause of death. Then, an investigation earlier this year revealed "abnormal" levels of polonium in his personal effects, some which included DNA samples. That has fueled speculation that he may have been poisoned, perhaps intentionally, by the radioactive element. In 2006, a former Russian spy living in London was killed by polonium poisoning.
It will take several months for any forensic tests to be completed, and even if they do conclude that Arafat was poisoned, it is unlikely that it will provide any evidence about the culprit, (though many already suspect that Israel was involved.) Al Jazeera claims their investigation has been stymied by Palestinian security forces that have chased their reporters and broken into their hotel rooms.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.