Yasser Arafat's nephew to receive medical records


Mon, Nov 22, 2004 - Page 6

Yasser Arafat's nephew arrived in Paris yesterday to collect the Palestinian leader's medical records, which could explain the cause of his death in France.

Nasser al-Kidwa, who is also the Palestinian representative to the UN, would not say after his arrival exactly when he would collect the dossier.

But he is expected to deliver it to the Palestinian Authority, which has promised to make public the cause of Arafat's death on Nov. 11 in a Paris-area military hospital.

A half-brother of Arafat, Mohsen Arafat, said Saturday that the Palestinian people are entitled to know what killed their leader.

"Politically, it is the right of the Palestinian people. We are ready to hand over the records to the Palestinian Authority," he told al-Arabiya television from Abu Dhabi.

Officials in France 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.

The lack of information about the cause of Arafat's death has proved fertile ground for widespread rumors in the Arab world that he was poisoned, despite official denials.

Arafat's widow, Suha, has also taken possession of his medical records and her lawyer said she is considering whether to release information to the public. She obtained the file from the Percy Military Training Hospital in suburban Paris where Arafat was treated.

French law does not specify how closely related a family member must be to have access to medical information.

Defense Ministry spokesman Jean-Francois Bureau reiterated Saturday that French officials have determined that the nephew, al-Kidwa, qualifies as a close enough relative to have access to the files.

"If he asks for the file we will give it to him," Bureau said. "He has as much right to the [records] as any family member."

He added: "The law obliges us to give the file to the family and after that they assume the responsibilities of what to do with it."