Stealth Assassination of Yasser Arafat

“If someone dies of unknown causes, it is mandatory to have an autopsy — mandatory! They know the regulations. Here in Jordan, bodies have been exhumed many times in criminal cases… I suspect Arafat died of a ‘killing poison’…. The death was due to this.” – Yasser Arafat’s personal physician for 25 years

As has become the usual when it comes to matters relating to Israel and the Middle East nearly all the mass corporate media in the U.S. and Europe allow themselves to be manipulated by governments, lobby-groups, and on-the-take commentators and pundits in ways that severely distort or cover up major events. Such was the case with what MER termed even as it unfolded last November the ‘Stealth Assassination’ of Yasser Arafat.

At the time of Arafat’s imprisonment in Ramallah, his unexplained illness, then the plot to wisk him off to a French military hospital followed by his still unexplained death and super quick burial without autopsy or serious investigation, MER made it clear from the start that many circumstances and facts lead to the conclusion that a historic ‘stealth assassination’ had been perpetrated and that the mass media was allowing itself to be complicitous in the cover up.

Today with the publication of this unusual interview with Yasser Arafat’s personal physician for over 25 years, Dr. Ashraf Al Kurdi, a few more crucial details emerge into more public view.

Arafat’s doctor demands answers
Dr. Ashraf Al Kurdi was former Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat’s physician for over 25 years.

Q: The U.S. press has insinuated that Yasser Arafat was a homosexual who died of AIDS. Are you aware of this?

A: I heard rumors he died of AIDS, but not rumors that he was a homosexual. I have done the HIV tests many times before on Arafat as a routine test. It was never positive.

Q: When was the last time you did a test?

A: About six months before he died. The Tunisian doctors told me they did this test in Ramallah and it was normal.

Q: Did Arafat have any longstanding health problems?

A: No, apart from the benign, nonessential tremor which manifests as a tremor in the lips and hands. He never had anything else.

Q: Did he have Parkinson’s Disease?

A: Actually, this was investigated many times. No. It was the tremor only. He was tested many times for Parkinson’s.

Q: How long had you been Arafat’s primary physician?

A: More than 25 years.

Q: You treated him after the plane crash in Libya?

A: Yes. We saved his life from bilateral subdural hematoma. This produced changes in his mental state and his physical appearance. He developed hemoplegia and when we caught it he was operated on in Amman.

Q: Could this cause any later medical condition?

A: No complications whatsoever. The operation went very smooth and was done by an ordinary neurosurgeon.

Q: Before you saw him the last time, had he had regular checkups?

A: Yes, of course.

Q: Arafat complained of stomach pain, could this indicate something?

A: No. He had abdominal pain from time to time, but not constant. A gastrointestinal gastroscopy showed a mild irritation.

Q: In the year prior to his death, how often had you seen him?

A: I was called on the sixteenth day after his illness, and when I went there I saw a group of Tunisian doctors sent by his wife to Ramallah without calling me. These people never had any idea about Arafat’s health — never saw Arafat before. I saw four Egyptian doctors and three Palestinian doctors. After I went to Ramallah with my group, I went straight to see him. There were signs of poisoning, manifested by a reddish patch on his face and a metallic, yellow color to his skin.

Q: Did any of these other doctors ask you about his medical history? Have you heard from them since?

A: No, they didn’t consult me. Nobody talked to me and none of them knew his health before, except one of the Egyptians.

Q: Have you been contacted since for your opinion?

A: No. No, there were strict instructions not to contact me by his wife, according to Palestinian Authority leaders.

Q: How many checkups did he get in the year before his death?

A: Three times.

Q: Was he in good health?

A: Yes, he was perfectly healthy. But I must stress that I was called officially on the sixteenth day of his illness, not at the beginning, so we can’t know exactly when it started. This is a very important point. I told Suha Arafat that by sending the Tunisian doctors, you delayed treatment on your husband. A gap of five or six days.

Q: Did you ask the PA leaders about this long delay?

A: There was no good answer — no one dared to say anything. I was told that Suha refused me access. Why, I don’t know. When I saw him, I decided he must go abroad because there were tests he needed that couldn’t be done in Ramallah. There was contact with the French and their response was immediate. They sent a plane and the Jordanians sent two helicopters to take him to Amman. Nobody offered me to go with him to Paris, and whenever I asked after him, I never got a satisfactory reply. Again, because of one person, probably his wife.

Q: What was his appearance the last time you saw him alive?

A: He lost half of his body weight. He had this reddish spot covering his face, and his coloring was metallic yellow. He was conscious, talking and joking, even. His cognitive functions were perfect. After that I asked all the doctors to meet. We concluded he had platelet deficiency. Some of the causes for this were not clear, so I asked he be transferred to Paris as soon as possible. But even the French doctors didn’t ask me for his previous history.

Q: Did Arafat know he was dying?

A: Yes. Yes, actually I heard from him in Ramallah, that he thought he’d been poisoned.

Q: Did he say who or why or how?

A: No.

Q: Last September 25th, 2003, there was an illness that some PA leaders in the Muqata said marked the start of his physical decline. What do you think?

A: I don’t think so, because I went with a team to Ramallah from Jordan to investigate all known types of poisons. We took blood samples and there were no poisons, or HIV infection.

Q: According to Islamic law, when the cause of death is questionable, an autopsy is required?

A: That is absolutely true. I requested four things: a committee to investigate his health and the progression of his illness. I wanted all results of the Paris tests and to see the French doctors. I asked for cause of death and if it was not identified to perform an autopsy.

Q: Considering that Yasser Arafat was a major world figure for half a century, shouldn’t an autopsy have been demanded? Why was it denied? Who denied it?

A: All of them. All the leadership, those with him in Paris and Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. He said there is no need, he is already buried. I said, “It’s not up to you.”

Q: Did you feel Abbas made the decision alone or was it a committee decision?

A: I don’t know.

Q: When you said publicly you thought he’d been poisoned, did you get threats?

A: No. The PA said I should communicate this to them, which I had done from the first.

Q: Some news accounts said the French government would be upset by an autopsy?

A: This is very stupid, I don’t think this would upset them. If someone dies of unknown causes, it is mandatory to have an autopsy — mandatory! They know the regulations. Here in Jordan, bodies have been exhumed many times in criminal cases.

Q: Is there a time limit to exhuming a body to trace forensic causes?

A: It depends on the agents used. I suspect Arafat died of a “killing poison”, a catalyst. The death was due to this.

* Trish Schuh who conducted this interview is a freelance journalist who has worked for ABC News, Al Arabiya.net, Muslim’s Weekly and The Indypendent. She studied Islam and Arabic at Bir Zeit University in Palestine. The interview was conducted in Amman Jordan on January 18, 2005 and published today in the Tehran Times.

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