French forensic specialists investigating the death of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have concluded that he died of natural causes, ruling out conspiracy theories that sought to link the terrorist’s decline to polonium poisoning.
The French findings are in tension with media reports published last month describing the results of a Swiss lab that had also probed the 2004 death. The lab generated an inconclusive forensics report regarding the presence of polonium in Arafat’s personal effects, a result that inexplicably received broad international coverage, with outlets reporting that the results lent credibility to suggestions that Arafat may in fact have been poisoned.
Stories to that effect were published by among others the Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times, CNN, ABC News, CBS News, the BBC, the Telegraph, Salon. There are exactly zero plausible scenarios under which tests conducted in recent years could have detected polonium poisoning from 2004, and critics implied that journalists had fallen for a publicity campaign orchestrated in part by Al Jazeera:
A report issued this week by Swiss investigators found unusual levels of polonium-210 in samples taken from Arafat’s body, and said this was enough evidence to “moderately support” the theory that he was poisoned. A previous study conducted in 2012 by the same team also found abnormal traces of the radioactive substance on belongings and clothing worn by Arafat shortly before his death.
Both medical reports were obtained exclusively by Al Jazeera, which has worked closely with the investigators at the University Centre of Legal Medicine in Lausanne (CURML) and helped Suha Arafat commission the 2012 report.
The Qatari outlet had aired an investigation titled “What Killed Arafat” in 2012, and was at the time gearing up to air a second broadcast that the station – on a poster emblazoned with the word “poisoned”:
— AJELive (@AJELive) November 10, 2013
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