RAMALLAH, August 30 (JMCC) - Palestinian officials are wondering why the widow of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is pursuing an investigation into his death eight years after he passed away in cloudy circumstances in a French hospital, reports The National
Suha Arafat, not known for a political role, is behind a new quest to find out what happened to Arafat, who fell ill mysteriously in Ramallah before seeking treatment in France.
A recent investigation by al-Jazeera television channel found heightened levels of a radioactive substance on Arafat's personal effects and French authorities have now opened their own query.
While Palestinian authorities have publicly welcomed the probe, Mrs Arafat's turnaround has left many officials in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority (PA) scratching their heads and wondering about her motives. "Suha never contacted us about this Al Jazeera investigation," said one Palestinian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "She's done literally nothing for the Palestinian cause, and now she suddenly pursues this sensational media investigation?"
Arafat's surviving colleagues have reason to be wary, even bitter, about his widow's behaviour. While the gravely ill Arafat lay dying in a Paris military hospital in November 2004, the 48-year-old Mrs Arafat, using her husband's nom de guerre, accused his top Palestinian aides during a television interview of "trying to bury Abu Ammar alive".
She also barred her husband's confidants from visiting him in the hospital, with one exception: she permitted then Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia to come to the ailing Palestinian leader's bedside after he begged her, according to one Palestinian official.
Under French law, the next-of-kin have the authority to control decisions about a medical patient's medical care and disclosure of related information. Mrs Arafat's decision to forbid a post-mortem only fuelled rumours that Arafat had died of causes ranging from food poisoning to Aids.
Several Palestinian officials interviewed for this story believed Mrs Arafat's renewed interest in her husband's demise may be a ploy to squeeze more cash from the PA, which already pays her an undisclosed monthly stipend. She knows potentially damaging details about the inner workings of the Palestinian leadership, one official said.
For their part, long-time colleagues of the late president resent Mrs Arafat because, they said, she was a main beneficiary of the large trove of funds over which her husband had uncontested control and distributed to a vast patronage network.