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Digging up the past: high-profile exhumations

The exhumation of the remains of dictator Francisco Franco to move him to a new location will take place in June, the Spanish government announced Friday. It is the latest in a long line of famous cases.

– Yasser Arafat –

After eight years of speculation about whether the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was murdered, he was exhumed on November 27, 2012 in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Samples were taken from his remains and handed over to international experts to determine whether or not he was poisoned by the radioactive substance polonium, as many Palestinians believed.

French and Russian experts favoured the explanation of natural death while Swiss experts supported the poisoning theory.

– Turgut Ozal –

The body of the former Turkish president, officially dead from a heart attack aged 65, was exhumed in October 2012 after some members of his family claimed he had been poisoned.

The autopsy, carried out nearly two decades after his death, failed to clarify the circumstances of his death.

– Rudolf Hess –

The remains of Hitler’s former right-hand man, who died in prison in 1987, were exhumed in secret in 2011 in Bavaria and his grave destroyed to get rid of the biggest neo-Nazi pilgrimage site in Germany.

His remains were placed in another coffin which was incinerated and his ashes scattered at sea.

– Salvador Allende –

The remains of the Chilean socialist leader, killed during the coup that overthrew him in September 1973, were disinterred in 2011 to try to find out how he died.

The results confirmed the official version that he shot himself as General Augusto Pinochet’s troops attacked his presidential palace.

– The Ceausescus –

The bodies of the former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena, who were executed on the fall of their regime in 1989, were disinterred in 2010 at the request of relatives who wanted to be sure of their identity.

DNA tests showed that the bodies were indeed those of the Ceausescus.

– Simon Bolivar –

The remains of the 19th-century Latin American independence hero were removed from his tomb in the Venezuelan capital Caracas in 2010 at the request of President Hugo Chavez, who wanted to ascertain whether he had been assassinated.

An analysis failed to reach a conclusion; officially, Bolivar died of tuberculosis.

– Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara –

The guerrilla leader, a comrade of Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro, was killed by troops in the Bolivian jungle in 1967.

In 1997, after 30 years of uncertainty, the bones of “Che” were exhumed and formally identified. They had been discovered in a mass grave near Vallegrande airport, in southeastern Bolivia.

The same year Castro led a ceremony to bury them in Cuba.

– Enver Hoxha –

The authoritarian communist ruler of Albania for 40 years was buried as a national hero in the Martyrs’ Cemetery after his death in 1985.

But after the fall of communism, his remains were exhumed in 1992 and transferred to an ordinary public cemetery in a suburb of the capital Tirana.

– Haile Selassie –

The Ethiopian leader, considered a living god by many of his followers, disappeared in 1975, a year after the coup that overthrew him.

His remains were later found and in November 2000, nine years after the fall of the regime that had ousted him, he was given a formal burial.