Palestinian Investigation Ctte says Swiss + Russian lab reports confirm Arafat was poisoned – but by what? Investigation continues…

At the Ramallah Muqata’a press conference Friday morning, the Palestinian Committee Investigating the death of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said there’s no doubt Arafat was poisoned — but they don’t know what substance, exactly, was used to kill him.

The head of the Palestinian Investigation Committee Tawfik Tirawi  said that two reports have now been received — one from Switerland and the other from Russia.

Tirawi said that both reports show that: 1.) “Abu Ammar” [Arafat] did not die from age, 2.) or from a disease, and 3.) it was not a natural death.   “The reports provide scientific points” to support the argument, he said.

Dr. Abdullah Bashir, a Jordanian medical doctor originally hired by the Yasser Arafat Foundation, said that both reports concluded that Arafat had died of  “illness as a result of a poisonous substance”.

But the Swiss + Russian labs + experts came to different conclusions about the Polonium they each found. Swiss conclusion: their test results “moderately support” the possibility of  Polonium poisoning.  But Russian experts concluded there’s not enough evidence.

Dr. Bashir told journalists that the Russian Federal Biomedical Agency had looked at their results, and compared them with the development of Arafat’s symptoms + illness, which resulted in the conclusion that there was not enough evidence to say that it was Polonium that had poisoned Arafat.

He said that both Swiss + Russian reports confirmed that Arafat’s illness and death had been caused by some “toxic substance” — which was either not examined at the French hospital in 2004 — or,  if it was tested, the results have not been revealed.

Tirawi said, however, that “other toxic substances” were found in forensic testing of Arafat’s remains + “new facts” had been discovered that require more study.   He did not identify them.

“We know our people need to know” about Arafat’s martyrdom, Tirawi said, and they “need and have a right to know the complete truth”. Tirawi reported the arrival of the two reports to Fatah’s powerful Central Committee [of which he is a member] on Thursday, and the Central Committee asked the Investigation Committee to give the press conference as soon as possible.

After the exhumation of Arafat’s body and the forensic sampling for testing in late November 2012, the samples were taken out of Ramallah and to Europe by French diplomatic valise, the Palestinian committee said in the press conference.

Dr Abdallah Bashir, head of the medical sub-committee of the Palestinian Investigation noted, twice, that French authorities were supposed to keep Arafat’s biological samples for 10 years, but didn’t.

Tawfik Tirawi, Chairman [Abbas-appointed] of the Palestinian Investigation Committee said, however: “the French hospital + French Government know the complete truth and all the details about the martyrdom of Yasser Arafat”.

This is one of the few points on which Tirawi and Al-Jazeera’s Clayton Swisher seem to agree.

Clayton Swisher @claytonswisher 7 Nov
French officials know what killed #Arafat [See here … via @Le_Figaro

The French know everything, Tirawi said suddenly, with intensity, but “Israeli is the basic + only one to be accused + we continue to investigate all details”.

He then waved a document that he said was a collection of all Israeli + even American statements about getting rid of and killing Arafat…

Tirawi said that he had been conducting his own investigation [away from the spotlight] for years, and had questioned  hundreds of Palestinians + non-Palestinians inside + outside the occupied Palestinian territory. He seemed confident that his investigation will find the culprit[s], adding “we must find not only the substance but also the tool”.

Continue reading Palestinian Investigation Ctte says Swiss + Russian lab reports confirm Arafat was poisoned – but by what? Investigation continues…

What does this mean?

Ma’an News Agency has reported that “President Mahmoud Abbas [Abu Mazen] issued a decree on Sunday banning all violations of privacy and personal freedoms, following the results of a Palestinian Authority inquiry into corruption allegations against his former chief of staff. ‘In light of the report handed over by the inquiry commission into the Rafiq Al-Husseini case, and reiterating previous instructions, the minister of interior must inform security services that any violator of the law of private freedoms will be called into account’, the presidential decree read”. This report can be read in full here.

What does this mean?

Is this another rebuke to Tawfik Tirawi (who reportedly previously lost his job as head of Palestinian General Intelligence because of this very scandal)? Tirawi was then apparently rehabilitated when he easily won a seat, in elections in Bethlehem in August, on the powerful Fatah Central Committee, and he now holds the portfolio on that body of Palestinian labor unions and syndicates (in which capacity he has been instrumental in changes affecting the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate)

Ma’an says: “Legal experts interpret the decree as signaling the need for court approval before recording private acts, such as phone tapping and video surveillance”.

We are still waiting for news about the recommendations made by the Commission of Inquiry that Abu Mazen set up to look into this whole affair … As Ma’an reported, the Commission of Inquiry completed its investigations — Ma’an says this happened on Monday, and the members handed their report over in a meeting with Abu Mazen on Saturday.

Amnesty: Journalists get hit by all sides in Israel + Palestine

The director of Amnesty International’s program for the Middle East and North Africa, Malcolm Smart, has issued (on 12 March) a statement expressing concern about the “continuing curbs on media freedom and harassment of journalists working in Gaza and the West Bank”

The statement notes that “Amnesty International has called on the Palestinian and Israeli authorities to release all journalists who are being detained for carrying out their legitimate professional activities, amid continuing harassment of media workers in the region”.

Continue reading Amnesty: Journalists get hit by all sides in Israel + Palestine

Fatah fallout continues

Nabil Amr, who was spokesman for the Fatah Sixth General Conference held in Bethlehem from 4-14 August (more or less),has just resigned his posts as Palestinian Ambassador to Egypt and to the Arab League whose headquarters in Cairo, and also as head of the Fatah satellite television channel, Filastina, that he started in recent months with a reported budget of $500,000. Amr left the Conference before it ended (it was originally scheduled to last only three days) for previously-scheduled medical treatment.

Amr was shot in the summer of 2004 by unknown gunmen while standing on the balcony of his home in Ramallah, after remarks he made in a television interview in which he criticized then-leader Yasser Arafat. As a result, his leg had to be amputated during his emergency hospitalization in Jordan, and he subsequently was treated in Germany as well.

Amr, a former journalist, was a member of Fatah’s outgoing Revolutionary Council who ran for election to the Central Committee but lost.

So far, Amr has not given any explanation for his resignations from all his current posts.

He announced his reported resignation from Cairo, according to a report by Bathlehem-based Ma’an News Agency published here, and said he was returning to Ramallah, and would make his formal farwell from the Egyptian capital later.

Mohammad Dahlan, the former head of Fatah/Palestinian Preventive Security Forces in Gaza, who was successful in his campaign to win a seat on the Fatah Central Committee, has reportedly been in Cairo in recent days.

The Fatah General Conference endorsed a proposal by Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas that all candidates who win elections to seats in either the Central Committee or the Revolutionary Council would have to resign from all other jobs. But the only resignation that has been announced so far is that of Tawfik Tirawi, now elected to the Central Committee, who reportedly resigned as an adviser to Abbas. It is not clear if Tirawi also resigned as head of the Palestinian training academy for security forces in Jericho.

Abbas — who is now head of the overarching Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the elected President of the Palestinian Authority as well as the newly-appointed leader of Fatah [by acclamation, in front of the television cameras suddenly called into the otherwise closed conference proceedings] now holds a concentration of political power similar to that held previously by the late Yasser Arafat.

He has just decided to call a meeting of the PLO’s 600+member Palestine National Council, or Parliament, just over a week from now. On the agenda, apparently, is a proposal to add six new members to the PLO’s Executive Committee, boosting the number of seats from 12 to 18 — one way to compensate some of those who lost in the Fatah elections.

And, Abbas still hasn’t played his other cards remaining after the elections at the Fatah 6th Conference — he can still name three members to the Central Committee, and a dozen or two members to the Revolutionary Council, subject to the approval of the Central Committee and the accord of the Revolutionary Council.

Continue reading Fatah fallout continues