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A Chilean court has ordered the exhumation of the remains of poet Pablo Neruda, as part of an inquest into his death in 1973.

Pablo Neruda, a left-wing Nobel Prize winner, died 12 days after a military coup replaced the socialist president Salvador Allende with General Augusto Pinochet.

The poet’s family has always maintained that he died in a Santiago clinic of advanced prostate cancer, aged 69.

Chile started investigating allegations that he may have been poisoned in 2011.

The date of the exhumation has not been fixed yet.

Pablo Neruda’s body is buried next to his wife Matilde Urrutia in Isla Negra, 70 miles west of the capital Santiago.

Pablo Neruda was a Communist and a friend of President Salvador Allende.

But the foundation that guards his legacy says it believes Pablo Neruda died of cancer.

In a statement, it said it had been informed by the authorities of the exhumation plans a few days ago.

It also stated that it expected the operation would be executed “with the greatest possible respect and care” and that it would end “any doubts that might exist”.

A Chilean court has ordered the exhumation of the remains of poet Pablo Neruda, as part of an inquest into his death in 1973

A Chilean court has ordered the exhumation of the remains of poet Pablo Neruda, as part of an inquest into his death in 1973

The current investigation was brought about after Pablo Neruda’s former driver, Manuel Araya Osorio, said that agents injected the poet with poison at the clinic on the orders of General Augusto Pinochet.

Pablo Neruda was a fierce critic of the military coup, which he saw as a betrayal of his country.

His death is not the only one from that time to be re-examined.

In December 2011, after the remains of President Salvador Allende were exhumed, it was confirmed that he committed suicide, and was not killed by soldiers who stormed the presidential palace during the coup, as some had argued.


The remains of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have been exhumed to investigate allegations he was poisoned.

The bodies of many well-known people have been dug up in the course of history, for myriad reasons. Here is a selection.

1. Oliver Cromwell

The English soldier and statesman died in 1658, was embalmed, had a state funeral and was then buried in Westminster Abbey. After the Restoration, he and two others were exhumed and beheaded. His corpse is believed to have been thrown into a pit at the execution site, which is near modern-day Marble Arch in London. His head was stuck on a pole and displayed on the roof of Westminster Hall. During the 18th Century it was regarded as a collector’s item. The head was analyzed in 1815 and confirmed to be that of Oliver Cromwell.

2. Jesse James

Rumors abounded that the notorious American gangster had faked his own death in 1882, so the body presumed to be his was exhumed in 1995 for DNA testing. The tests indicated that it was indeed his corpse, as the DNA was consistent with that of his known descendants. But a further two bodies were later exhumed – including that of a man who had claimed in life to be the real Jesse James.

3. Haile Selassie

Ethiopia’s last emperor was exhumed after being discovered buried under a toilet in Addis Ababa’s Imperial Palace, in 1992. Selassie ruled Ethiopia for 45 years and was regarded as a living god by Rastafarians. He was overthrown in a coup led by the dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1974, and held captive for a year in the palace before he died. It is thought he may have been murdered by his captors. In 2000, more than 25 years after his death, he was reburied in Addis Ababa’s Trinity Cathedral.

4. Evita Peron

The wife of Argentine President Juan Peron was embalmed – but after a military coup in the mid-1950s the country’s new rulers wanted the body out of the way. Removed by dead of night from a trade union headquarters in Buenos Aires, it probably spent time in a van parked on the streets of the city, behind a cinema screen, and inside the city’s waterworks, as well as in the offices of Military Intelligence. In 1957, with covert help from the Vatican, Evita Peron was buried in Milan, Italy, under a false name. Graffiti began to appear in Buenos Aires asking “Where is the body of Evita Peron?” In 1971 the body was disinterred and driven to Juan Peron’s new home in Madrid. Two years later, he was again elected President of Argentina, but died soon after. His third wife, Isabel, oversaw the repatriation of Evita Peron’s body to Argentina. She now lies in her family’s mausoleum, in a crypt fortified like a nuclear bunker.

5. Charlie Chaplin

The comedian’s body was dug up in March 1978 by two men who reburied it in a cornfield, and began demanding a ransom from Charlie Chaplin’s lawyer. Taken from the village cemetery in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland, where the comic actor had spent the last 25 years of his life, it was returned to the same grave three months later, following the arrest of the grave robbers – refugees from Poland and Bulgaria. This time, however, the vault was made of reinforced concrete. The village gravedigger who discovered the theft said there was no chance of the body again being spirited away at night.

“You would need a pneumatic drill to open that vault,” he said.

“And that is bound to make a lot of noise.”

The remains of many well-known people have been exhumed in the course of history

The remains of many well-known people have been exhumed in the course of history

6. Elizabeth Siddal

When the wife of English artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti died from an opiate overdose in 1862, Rossetti buried a book of his poetry alongside her. Years later, and with his eyesight failing, making it harder to paint, he decided to retrieve the poems. For this, he needed permission from the Home Secretary, as grave-robberies were a big problem at the time. This was granted, though Rossetti wanted the operation to be kept as secret as possible. The grave slab at Highgate Cemetery in London was removed, the coffin prised open, and the manuscript removed and disinfected. He was said to be disappointed that the poem he had most wanted had a “great worm-hole through every page” – though a significant volume of poems from the exhumation did appear.

7. Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus asked in his will to be buried in America, but no suitable church existed there at his death in 1506, so he was buried initially in the Spanish city of Valladolid, then moved to a monastery in Seville. In 1542, however, the body was removed and sent to Hispaniola, where it was buried in Santo Domingo (now the capital of the Dominican Republic). At the end of the 17th Century, Spain ceded the western part of Hispaniola to France, so Columbus’s body was taken to Cuba. Then, when Cuba became independent, in 1898, the body crossed the Atlantic for a final time, and the body was buried in the Cathedral of Seville. At least, that is the established theory. There is, however, a box containing bones, inscribed with the name “Christopher Columbus” at a Columbus monument in the Dominican capital. Researchers who took DNA samples from the Seville body say it matches the DNA of Columbus’s brother Diego, also buried near Seville. The remains in Santo Domingo have never been released for testing.

8. Virginia Poe

Virginia Clemm married her first cousin, American author Edgar Allan Poe, at the age of 13, and died of tuberculosis at 24, in 1847. She was originally buried in the vault of the family from whom the Poes rented their cottage in Fordham, near Philadelphia. In 1875 the cemetery was destroyed, and a few years later one of Poe’s biographers, William Gill, took possession of her bones – apparently, just at the point the sexton was about to throw them away. For a while, Gill stored the bones in a box under his bed. Five years later they were buried with her husband’s in a tomb built for the author in 1875 in Westminster Hall and Burying Ground (now part of the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore) as a replacement for his original simple grave in the same burial ground.

9. Marie Curie

The ashes of Marie Curie and her husband Pierre were moved in 1995 from a small cemetery to the Pantheon in Paris. This was done in order to honor her life and work. The Polish-born scientist won two Nobel prizes and did ground-breaking work on radiation. She died from leukaemia in 1934 (caused by exposure to radiation).

10. Che Guevara

The Argentine-born Cuban revolutionary leader was captured and shot in Bolivia in 1967. For years the exact location of his body was kept secret, then in 1995 it was revealed by a Bolivian general involved in the operation that he had been buried by an airport runway, near the site where he was killed. Two years later, his body was exhumed and returned to Cuba in time for the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of his death. It now lies in a mausoleum and museum to Guevara, which is open to visitors. Some questions have been raised, however, as to whether the correct body was exhumed in 1997.

And another ten…

  • Abraham Lincoln – coffin moved after failed grave-robbing, exhumed when new tomb is built
  • Tsar Nicholas II and family – shot and thrown in a pit in 1918, reburied 80 years later
  • Tutankhamun – Pharaoh who died in the 14th Century, tomb excavated in 1922
  • Simon Bolivar – South American independence leader exhumed in 2010 to test poisoning theory
  • Adolf Hitler – committed suicide in Berlin, buried in shell crater, reburied by Soviets in Magdeburg (apart from jaw and cranium)
  • Lee Harvey Oswald – killer of John F Kennedy, exhumed in 1981 to test theory he had been replaced by a Soviet double
  • Salvador Allende – Chilean president who committed suicide in 1973, exhumed in 2011 to test assassination theory
  • Cardinal Newman – conservative English cleric, died in 1890, grave found to be empty in 2008
  • Zachary Taylor – 12th US president, died 1850, exhumed in 1991 to test poisoning theory
  • Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu – Romanian president and wife, shot in 1989 revolution, exhumed in 2010 to confirm identity

The remains of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have been exhumed as part of an investigation into how he died.

Swiss, French and Russian experts will take samples to establish whether his death in Paris in 2004 at the age of 75 was the result of poisoning.

France began a murder inquiry in August after Swiss experts found radioactive polonium-210 on Yasser Arafat’s personal effects.

Yasser Arafat’s medical records say he had a stroke resulting from a blood disorder.

His widow, Suha, objected to a post-mortem at the time, but asked the Palestinian Authority to permit the exhumation “to reveal the truth”.

Yasser Arafat’s body lay in a stone-clad mausoleum inside the Muqataa presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The mausoleum was sealed off earlier this month.

Palestinian officials told the Associated Press that the remains were taken from the mausoleum to a nearby mosque, so that Palestinian doctors could take samples from the bones.

With the body removed from the tomb, the scientists will each take samples and then go to their respective countries to carry out tests for polonium-210 and possibly other lethal substances.

It is believed that the investigation could take several months.

The remains of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have been exhumed as part of an investigation into how he died

The remains of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have been exhumed as part of an investigation into how he died

Before the exhumation, the head of the Palestinian committee investigating Yasser Arafat’s death, Tawfik al-Tirawi, said no journalists would be allowed to observe the exhumation.

“Because [of the] sanctity of the symbol and the sanctity of this event, [the exhumation] should not be permitted to be in front of the media,” the former Palestinian intelligence chief said.

A reburial ceremony, with full military honors, is expected to take place later on Tuesday.

Many Palestinians continue to believe Yasser Arafat was poisoned by Israel, which saw Arafat as an obstacle to peace and had put him under house arrest. Israel has strongly denied any involvement.

There has also been speculation that he was suffering from HIV or cancer at the time of his death.

Yasser Arafat, who led the Palestine Liberation Organization for 35 years and became the first president of the Palestinian Authority in 1996, fell violently ill in October 2004 inside the Muqataa.

Two weeks later he was flown to a French military hospital in Paris, where he died on 11 November.

In 2005, the New York Times obtained a copy of Arafat’s medical records, which it said showed he died of a massive hemorrhagic stroke that resulted from a bleeding disorder caused by an unknown infection.

Independent experts who reviewed the records told the paper that it was highly unlikely that he had been poisoned.

A murder inquiry was launched by French prosecutors in August after an investigation by al-Jazeera TV, working with scientists at the Institute of Radiation Physics (IRA) at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, found “significant” traces of polonium-210 present in samples taken from Arafat’s personal effects, including his trademark keffiyeh headdress.

In some cases, the elevated levels were 10 times higher than those on control subjects, and most of the polonium could not have come from natural sources, the scientists said.

But the institute also said that Yasser Arafat’s symptoms – as described in his medical records – were not consistent with polonium poisoning.

The former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died of exposure to polonium-210 in London in 2006. The UK authorities have accused Andrei Lugovoi, an ex-KGB officer, of poisoning his tea.

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