Arafat's widow in Malta

A file photo of Suha Arafat from The Times archives.

A file photo of Suha Arafat from The Times archives.

Suha Arafat, the widow of the former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, is in Malta after having been mysteriously stripped of her Tunisian citizenship.

Mrs Arafat is understood to be here on vacation with her daughter Zahwa and her mother Raymonda.

However, yesterday Associated Press reported that Tunisia - where she and her daughter have been living since the former Palestinian leader died in 2004 - stripped her of her Tunisian citizenship.

A formal decree published on August 2 in Tunisia's official register indicated that 44-year-old Ms Arafat, who was born in Jerusalem and became a naturalised Tunisian last year, had lost her citizenship.

According to the AP no explanation was given, nor was any reference made to Zahwa, the Arafats' 12-year-old daughter who became a Tunisian citizen on the same day as her mother.

Attempts to contact Mrs Arafat have proven futile.

Born into a wealthy Christian family, she married the Palestinian leader in 1990, when she was aged 27 and Yasser Arafat was 61. The marriage was kept secret for well over a year.

In the days of Mr Arafat's death in a French military hospital in November 2004, she was at the centre of a row with the temporary Palestinian leadership over access to the ailing Palestinian leader in hospital.

She accused her husband's colleagues of conspiring against him and of trying "to bury Arafat while he is still alive".

Mr Arafat died at the age of 75 after suffering multiple-organ failure.

He had been flown to Paris on October 29 after weeks of mystery stomach pains. He fell into a coma on November 3 and never regained consciousness.


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