Yasser Arafat Polonium Poisoning Possible, Widow Claims Assassination

Yasser Arafat’s autopsy showed reputed evidence of polonium poisoning and his widow Suha immediately claimed it was proof her husband was murdered. But was Yasser Arafat assassinated or is there another explanation?

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the Yasser Arafat death report by the Swiss and the Russians was delivered to the Palestinian Authority today.

Yasser Arafat died in 2004 while suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, but the exact cause of death was never officially announced because no autopsy was performed. But the wife of Yasser Arafat, Suha, kept some of his old clothing and traces of polonium-210, which is a deadly radioactive isotope, were found. After this discovery, comparisons were made to ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died in November of 2006 after he was poisoned with polonium in London, and this caused the wife of Yasser Arafat to request an investigation by the French police into a potential poisoning of her husband.

Early reports were mixed. Polonium-210 cannot penetrate the body or the skin, but even if a small amount the size of a speck of dust were ingested it’s generally believed to be fatal. The Swiss lab responsible for the Yasser Arafat autopsy reported that “several samples containing body fluid stains (blood and urine) contained higher unexplained polonium 210 activities than the reference samples [but] the absence of myelosuppression [bone marrow deficiency] and hair loss does not favor acute radiation syndrome, symptoms of nausea, vomiting, fatigue, diarrhea, and anorexia, followed by hepatic and renal failures, might suggest radioactive poisoning.” For example, one sample of clothing contained almost 27 times as much polonium-210 as normally contained in the everyday environment.

Polonium poisoning is also extremely rare. Getting hold of polonium-210 would also require backing by a government since it’s an artificial substance created in nuclear reactors. Only about 100 grams of polonium are produced per year, and most of it comes from Russia.

The Yasser Arafat Death Report

But now the final report has been published by Al Jazeera and Yasser Arafat’s dead body had roughly eighteen times the regular levels of radioactive polonium within his ribs, pelvis, and burial soil samples. The Swiss report claims a 83 percent confidence level for Yassar Arafat being poisoned by polonium, which “moderately supports” the radioactive isotope as the cause of his death.

The full report on Yasser Arafat’s body says that “polonium is deposited predominantly in soft tissue rather than bone,” but since about eight years have passed all that remained was a skeleton and some residue from the death shroud. The lab collected 18 samples from all major sections of the body, including a soil sample. They submitted 11 of those samples to a toxological analysis using gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (GC-MS).

Polonium-210 has a half life of 138 days, which means that last year there would have only been one atom in a million of the original source left over from the ravages of time. As such, even if Yasser Arafat was purposefully poisoned it’s possible scientists would have found no trace of polonium left in his exhumed body:

“As there was an eight year gap between the death of President Arafat and our measurements, the potential initial presence of Po-210 could have decreased sufficiently to become undetectable. In this context, and because absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, our second objective was to investigate if the ingestion of a high activity of artificial Po-210 could have left some measurable signatures, such as impurities or by-products.”

The amount of radioactivity is measured in millibecquerels (mBq) and they estimated the accumulation of byproducts like Pb-210 at 36 mBq per square centimeter. They checked surrounding buildings as well and there were not any sources of radioactivity that could have contaminated Arafat’s body. Soil tended to have low concentrations although soil underneath the body was 30.4 mBq.

But when they looked at the bones for polonium they discovered 228 mBq, 688 mBq, 339 mBq, 449 mBq, and 879 mBq in various fragments of the left rib, 136 mBq in the sternum, and 904 mBq in the crest from the skull. There were also corresponding high concentrations of Pb-210 in those areas. Other portions of the skeleton tended to be in the double digits and support levels varied all over the map, but the rib and the crest tended to have the highest reported support levels in percentage. They also compared polonium activity versus other autopsies and forensic cases and multiple samples from Arafat’s body were many times the norm, although there were some that were average.

They also noted that if Yasser Arafat had ingested polonium before death only four to five percent should have remained in his body. If Arafat had ingested 1 GBq (or 1,000,000,000,000 mBq) in October of 2004 his corpse would have had about 15 Bq of activity in November of 2012, when the body was exhumed. Fatal levels for Po-210 are 8.8 MBq, which weighs about 50 nanograms, so any alleged purposeful poisoning would have used far more polonium than necessary. Based upon their model, polonium should have only stuck to the surface of the bones in a case of “acute intake.”

So how did they explain the half life of Polonium-210? Before the report was released it was suggested that if Yasser Arafat’s body had been contaminated after his death then they could have been continually replenished by naturally occurring sources such as lead-210, lead-214, and bismuth-214. The report agrees and notes the polonium-210 levels were “higher than expected” but they believe lead-210 supported those levels.

They also claim Pb-210 contamination cannot be explained as chronic contamination through heavy smoking (the average Polonium intake with smoking is 123 mBq) or something that occurred a long time before death. So they say the facts lead to the conclusion that “an intake of Pb-210 occurred at the onset of the first symptoms” in October of 2004. They also say this Pb-210 could mask the detection of smaller quantities of polonium poisoning in other parts of the body. They also note various inconsistencies in the data, but believe the now-gone soft tissues and fluids were the source of radiological contamination, not the environment.

Yasser Arafat: Poisoned Or Not?

At the time of death, it was believed Yasser Arafat died from “acute intoxication” because of his various symptoms. Polonium poisoning was not documented at the time, although the substance was known to be toxic. The case of the Russian spy is the only other known comparison, but medical documents have never been released for comparison to Yasser Arafat, nor can the scientific literature provide any help.

Making matters worse is the fact that samples from Yasser Arafat were destroyed shortly after his death and the chain of custody for evidence was poorly documented. The report claims all these conditions contribute to the “uncertainty of the analytical results and their interpretation.” In the end, they produced a data columns containing the pros and cons to the theory that Yasser Arafat was poisoned by polonium.

The medical symptoms were not consistent with known radiation poisoning, but the sudden onset of symptoms after a meal is said to be suspicious. Radon contamination could produce both lead-210 and polonium-210, but radon was deposited homogeneously and radon alone couldn’t explain the measured amounts. It’s possible all of the measured polonium-210 could have been supported by lead-210, but the personal effects only had high concentrations in biological samples. The observed activities of lead-210 are also more consistent with a one-time ingestion shortly before death, although an “unknown origin, totally unrelated to polonium poisoning cannot be ruled out” where the radioactive material became present after death. In the end, the report states the “results moderately support the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with polonium-210.”

Yasser Arafat Murdered?

Despite the scientific uncertainty, Suha is claiming this is evidence for Yasser Arafat’s assassination:

“We are revealing a real crime, a political assassination. This has confirmed all our doubts. It is scientifically proved that he didn’t die a natural death and we have scientific proof that this man was killed.”

Professor David Barclay, a British forensic scientist, says Yasser Arafat was murdered:

“In my opinion, it is absolutely certain that the cause of his illness was polonium poisoning. The levels present in him are sufficient to have caused death. What we have got is the smoking gun – the thing that caused his illness and was given to him with malice…. What we don’t know is who’s holding the gun at the time. The level of polonium in Yasser Arafat’s rib…is about 900 milibecquerels. That is either 18 or 36 times the average, depending on the literature.”

Still, Suha says “we can’t point a finger at anyone” until the French are done with their investigation. But many Palestinians point the finger at Israel, which confined Arafat to his headquarters in the West Bank.

In the past, Dov Weisglass, chief of staff to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the time of Arafat’s death in 2004 and a key participant in deliberations surrounding Arafat’s worsening health, said Israel had no reason to physically harm the Palestinian leader:

“Israel did not have any hand in this. We did not physically hurt him when Arafat was in his prime… so all the more so we had no interest in this kind of activity when he was politically sidelined.”

What do you think about the Yasser Arafat death report on potential polonium poisoning?