The body of Yasser Arafat, former leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), was exhumed early Tuesday morning so samples could be taken as part of an investigation into the cause of his death.
The area around the grave, which is located in a mausoleum inside the Muqataa presidential compound, has been sealed off for two weeks so that workers could remove layers of stone and concrete from the tomb. Surrounded by blue tarpaulins, the exhumation took place out of the public eye and without media presence. Arafat's remains were taken to a nearby mosque where samples were taken.
In an effort to determine if Arafat was poisoned, experts from France, Russia and Switzerland took samples from Arafat's remains and will examine them in their respective countries according to a BBC report. The experts will be testing to see if polonium-210 or other lethal substances are present in the remains.
In July, Suha Arafat, widow of the former Palestinian leader, spoke with Al Jazeera and stated she wanted Arafat's body exhumed because she believed he may have been poisoned with polonium. Suha gave Al Jazeera the clothing worn by Arafat prior to him becoming ill. According to the New York Times, the clothing was taken to the University of Lausanne’s Institute of Radiation Physics in Switzerland for examination. Doctors found a "high level" of the toxic isotope polonium 210 on the clothing. They subsequently suggested the body be exhumed so the remains could also be tested the presence of the isotope.
Tawfiq Tirawi, leader of the committee investigating Arafat's death, believes that Arafat was intentionally poisoned with polonium.
The exhumation was conducted with a military ceremony. When asked why the exhumation could not be witnessed by the media, Tirawi said"Because [of the] sanctity of the symbol and the sanctity of this event, [the exhumation] should not be permitted to be in front of the media."
Arafat's body has been returned and the tomb has been resealed.
Experts expect the examination and testing of the remains to be a lengthy process, saying results will not be available for several months.
Regardless of the results, it does not appear as if the matter will be closed any time soon. Tirawi told WAFA:
“We are convinced Israel assassinated Arafat… and no matter what the results given by Russian, Swiss and French experts will be, the case will remain open.”