PARIS — French prosecutors opened a murder inquiry into the death of Yasser Arafat on Tuesday, judicial officials told a French new agency, after his wife and a TV investigation raised new questions about whether the Palestinian leader was poisoned.
There have long been rumors in the Arab world that Arafat was poisoned, and a Swiss lab’s recent finding of elevated levels of a rare and highly lethal radioactive substance on Arafat’s clothing has fed those claims.
However, the Institute of Radiation Physics said that its findings were inconclusive and that only exhuming Arafat’s remains could bring clarity. Palestinian officials have waffled — initially approving the exhumation, then saying the matter needed more study.
Still, since Arafat’s death, several senior Palestinian officials have alleged that Israel poisoned the Palestinian leader, an assertion Israel vehemently denied.
Testing Arafat’s bones for polonium-210 — the substance found on his clothes — could offer the last chance to get to the bottom of allegations that he was poisoned.
Arafat died in a French military hospital in 2004 of what doctors said was a stroke.