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Russian forensics experts: Arafat was not poisoned

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Yasser Arafat was not poisoned with radioactive polonium, forensic experts in Russia said.

The finding announced Thursday by experts at Russia’s state forensic agency back a report issued earlier this month by French forensic experts about the death of the late Palestinian leader.

“Yasser Arafat died not from the effects of radiation but of natural causes,” said Vladimir Uiba, head of the Federal Medico-Biological Agency, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.

Arafat led the Palestine Liberation Organization for 35 years and became the first president of the Palestinian Authority in 1996. He fell violently ill in October 2004 and died two weeks later, at the age of 75, in a Paris military hospital. The official cause of death was a massive stroke and there was no autopsy. His remains were exhumed last year.

Arafat’s wife, Suha, had filed legal action in July 2012 asking French authorities to look into claims that her husband was poisoned, following the broadcast of an Al Jazeera documentary that said his clothes tested positive for high amounts of deadly polonium 210 radiation.

The following month, French prosecutors opened a murder inquiry into Arafat’s death. Samples were taken from Arafat’s exhumed body in November 2012 by Swiss, French and Russian experts.

Faed Mustafa, the Palestinian ambassador to Russia, told the state RIA Novosti news agency that despite the findings Palestinian authorities have decided to continue the investigation into Arafat’s death.

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