The remains of the former leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) Yasser Arafat have been exhumed as part of an investigation into his death.

Arafat’s body was exhumed on 27 November and samples will be analysed by experts from France, Switzerland and Russia to establish whether Arafat was poisoned.

In July, the former Palestinian leader’s wife called for Arafat’s body to be exhumed after traces of radioactive material were found in his belongings.

The calls for the enquiry follow claims by Swiss scientists that they found traces of the radioactive material polonium-210 on Arafat’s belongings that were kept by his widow after his death in 2004. Arafat’s widow, Suha Arafat, had declined a post-mortem after Arafat’s death, but has now called for his body to be exhumed to enable an investigation and further tests to be carried out.

According to reports of his medical records, Arafat’s death was caused by a stroke brought on by a blood disorder. Since his death, there have been many accusations from within the Palestinian movement and Arab world that Arafat was poisoned.  Polonium-210 is the same substance that was used to assassinate the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

Palestinian officials have supported Suha’s wish for the exhumation of Arafat’s body and official enquiry. The investigation is expected to take several months.

Arafat headed the PLO for 35 years and was the first president of the Palestinian Authority (PA).