Radiation experts confirm polonium on Arafat clothing

Updated 28 December 2013
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Radiation experts confirm polonium on Arafat clothing

PARIS: Swiss radiation experts have confirmed they found traces of polonium on clothing used by Yasser Arafat which “support the possibility” the veteran Palestinian leader was poisoned.
In a report published by The Lancet at the weekend, the team provide scientific details to media statements made in 2012 that they had found polonium on Arafat’s belongings.
Arafat died in France on November 11 2004 at the age of 75, but doctors were unable to specify the cause of death. No autopsy was carried out at the time, in line with his widow’s request.
His remains were exhumed in November 2012 and samples taken, partly to investigate whether he had been poisoned — a suspicion that grew after the assassination of Russian ex-spy and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.
That investigation is ongoing, conducted separately by teams in France, Switzerland and Russia.
In the Lancet report, eight scientists working at the Institute of Radiation Physics and University Center of Legal Medicine in Lausanne said they had carried out radiological tests on 75 samples.
Thirty-eight samples came from Arafat’s belongings, including underwear, a shapka hat, toothbrush, a hospital cap and sportswear, that were provided by the Palestinian leader’s widow Suha Arafat.
These were checked against 37 “reference” samples of cotton clothing that had been kept in an attic for 10 years and protected from dust.
“Several samples containing body fluid stains (blood and urine) contained higher unexplained polonium 210 activities than the reference samples,” says the case report.
“These findings support the possibility of Arafat’s poisoning with polonium 210.”
The polonium samples were measured at “several mBq,” or millibecquerels, a unit of radioactivity.
Computer modelling, which calculates polonium’s very fast decay, found that these levels “are compatible with a lethal ingestion of several GBq,” or several billion becquerels, in 2004, they said.
In addition, says the report, Arafat’s clinical symptoms “could not rule out” polonium poisoning.
These include nausea, vomiting, fatigue and abdominal pain.
“Since ingested polonium 210 is eliminated partly through faeces, the gastro-intestinal syndrome, associated with multiple organ failure, could be a predominant cause of death,” the authors suggest.
They acknowledge, though, that Arafat showed no hair loss or decline in bone marrow activity — symptoms that typically occur in radiation poisoning.
The team regret that no post-mortem investigation was carried out after Arafat’s death.
“An autopsy would have been useful in this case because although potential polonium poisoning might not have been identified during that procedure, body samples could have been kept and tested afterwards.”
On July 3 2012, one of the authors, Francois Bochud, who is head of the Institute of Radiation Physics, told Al-Jazeera that the team “did find some significant polonium” in Arafat’s belongings.
“If (Suha Arafat) really wants to know what happened to her husband (we need) to find a sample — I mean an exhumation — should provide with a sample that should have a very high quantity of polonium if he was poisoned,” he told the Mideast TV news channel.
Beatrice Schaad, head of communications at the Vaudois University Hospital Center (CHUV) which is in charge of the institute, said the case report was the “scientific version” of what was given to the media.
“There is nothing new compared with what was said” in 2012, she told AFP. “There is still no conclusion that he was poisoned.”


Kuwait arrests 2 Filipinos accused of helping runaway maids

Updated 23 April 2018
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Kuwait arrests 2 Filipinos accused of helping runaway maids

  • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has banned workers from heading to Kuwait over abuse cases
  • The two countries have since been negotiating for new rules governing Filipino workers there
KUWAIT CITY: Kuwaiti police arrested two Filipinos for allegedly convincing housemaids to run away from their employers’ homes as the Philippines’ ambassador faced questions for comments about his embassy’s work in aiding abused workers, authorities said Sunday.
The arrests, reported by the state-run KUNA news agency, come as relations are tense between Kuwait and the Philippines, which sends many domestic laborers to the Gulf Arab emirate.
Already, the government of President Rodrigo Duterte has banned workers from heading to Kuwait over abuse cases, culminating in a February incident that saw a Filipino’s body discovered in a freezer at a Kuwait City apartment abandoned for more than a year.
KUNA said Sunday the two Filipinos acknowledged convincing the maids to leave. It wasn’t clear what law the two men were accused of breaking, though KUNA said the two “confessed to the crime in addition to other similar offenses that had been committed in various regions of the country.”
The arrests came after Kuwait summoned the Philippines ambassador over comments he made that were reported in local press about the embassy’s effort to rescue domestic workers who are abused by their employers. Ambassador Renato Villa was quoted as saying his embassy moves in to help the abused if Kuwaiti authorities fail to respond within 24 hours.
Villa’s office said he was unavailable for comment Sunday.
Duterte in January complained that cases of abuse reported by Filipino domestic workers “always” seem to be coming from Kuwait.
There have been prominent cases of abuse in the past, including an incident in December 2014 where a Kuwaiti’s pet lions fatally mauled a Filipino maid.
The Philippines banned workers entirely from Kuwait after the discovery of Joanna Demafelis’ body in a freeze in February. In late March, Lebanese officials said 40-year-old Lebanese national Nader Essam Assaf confessed to killing the woman along with his Syrian wife, who remains at large. Authorities say Assaf faces a possible death sentence.
More than 260,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, many of them as housemaids. Kuwait and the Philippines have since been negotiating for new rules governing Filipino workers there.
Philippine officials have demanded that housemaids be allowed to hold their passports and cellphones, which is normal for skilled workers like teachers and office workers. But many Kuwaiti employers seize their phones and passports.