Swiss scientists who conducted tests on samples taken from Yasser Arafat’s body have found at least 18 times the normal levels of radioactive polonium in his remains. The scientists said that they were confident up to an 83 percent level that the late Palestinian leader was poisoned with it, which they said “moderately supports” polonium as the cause of his death.
A 108-page report by the University Centre of Legal Medicine in Lausanne, which was obtained exclusively by Al Jazeera, found unnaturally high levels of polonium in Arafat’s ribs and pelvis, and in soil stained with his decaying organs.
The Swiss scientists, along with French and Russian teams, obtained the samples last November after his body was exhumed from a mausoleum in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
Dave Barclay, a renowned UK forensic scientist and retired detective, told Al Jazeera that with these results he was wholly convinced that Arafat was murdered.
“Yasser Arafat died of polonium poisoning,” he said. “We found the smoking gun that caused his death. What we don’t know is who’s holding the gun at the time.”
Source: Al Jazeera
What is Polonium?
Polonium is a rare and highly radioactive element. It is found naturally in the atmosphere and in the earth’s crust, though in miniscule quantities. World-renowned scientist and Nobel laureate Marie Curie discovered the element in the late 19th century and named it after her native country Poland (Polonia in Latin).
Polonium has dozens of isotopes. One of the most common is polonium-210, which emits highly radioactive particles, known as alpha particles. This was the isotope found on Yasser Arafat’s personal effects during Al Jazeera’s initial investigation into What Killed Arafat?
Because of its radioactivity, polonium has been used as a trigger for nuclear weapons, and as a power source for satellites and other spacecraft. The Russian space programme used it to heat rovers that landed on the Moon in the 1970s.
Polonium is harmless when it is outside the body, but after ingestion it becomes one of the deadliest substances know. An amount equivalent to the size of a particle of dust is lethal.
Ingesting just 50 nanogrammes, or inhaling 10 nanogrammes, of the substance can cause death. This means one gramme of polonium-210 could theoretically poison and kill about 10 million people.
Source: Al Jazeera