Arafat's widow retrieves his medical file from French military hospital
Friday, November 19th 2004, 8:17 pm
By: News On 6
PARIS (AP) _ Yasser Arafat's widow took possession of his widely sought medical records Friday, and was deciding whether to release the information publicly to ``stop all these false ideas'' of what caused the Palestinian leader's death, her lawyer said.
Suha Arafat obtained the file from the Percy military hospital in suburban Paris in mid-afternoon, and was studying it, attorney Jean-Marie Burguburu told The Associated Press by telephone.
``The decision is in the process,'' he said. ``The problem is ... to try to stop all these false ideas about the death of President Arafat _ these rumors.''
French officials insist the law prevents them from making Arafat's medical records public _ but they can give them to family members, who can then reveal information if they wish.
Authorities had said Thursday they would release Arafat's records to his nephew, Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinian representative at the United Nations. Al-Kidwa was reportedly traveling to Paris Friday as an emissary of the Palestinian leadership, which has promised to make the records public.
A week after his death, speculation still swirls around what killed Arafat. Cirrhosis of the liver, AIDS, a blood disorder and poisoning are frequently mentioned in unconfirmed reports _ all consistent with the little that is publicly known about the medical condition that landed the Palestinian leader in a French hospital.
Similar to the uncertainty that shrouded his illness, there is a lack of clarity about who is entitled to the records. French officials insist the French law prevents them from making Arafat's medical records public, and they have refused to announce the cause of his death Nov. 11. They say only family members are entitled to receive the files.
Burguburu appeared to be bracing for a legal showdown, insisting that under French law, only Arafat's wife has the right to obtain the medical report.
``If the hospital made a copy _ I don't know if they did, they didn't tell me _ but in principle, it does not have the right to,'' he said. ``If it did, that would be against the law.''
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia told the AP there was no doubt that Arafat's medical records would come to light.
``When we get this report, we will study it and hear the opinions of the doctors,'' Qureia said by telephone, ``and then we will inform the Palestinian people with all the details about the health situation of President Arafat and what led to his death.''
It was unclear when al-Kidwa would arrive in Paris. But he confirmed Thursday to The Associated Press that he would be traveling to France. It wasn't immediately clear how the latest development would affect the mission.