Issued on: 17/03/2022 – 21:31
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin speaks to the press after a meeting with unions on March 16, 2022 in Ajaccio, on the first of a two-day ministerial visit in Corsica following days of sometimes violent protests on the island. © AFP, Pascal Pochard-Casabianca
The French judiciary on Thursday suspended the prison sentence of a Corsican nationalist jailed for the assassination of a top official, as the government seeks to ease tensions and end violent clashes on the Mediterranean island.
Yvan Colonna, who has been serving a life sentence for the assassination in 1998 of Corsica’s top regional official Claude Erignac, is currently in a coma after being beaten on March 2 in jail by a fellow detainee serving time for terror offences.
The incident has stoked anger on the island where some still see Colonna – who was arrested in 2003 after a five-year manhunt that eventually found him living as a shepherd in the Corsican mountains – as a hero in a fight for independence.
A judge ruled that Colonna should be accorded a suspension of his sentence “for medical reasons”, a judiciary source, who asked not to be named, told AFP.
The request had been made by his lawyers and also approved by prosecutors.
Colonna remains in hospital in Marseille but the ruling means he is no longer under the administration of the prison authorities.
The most immediate effect is that his relatives will need no permission to visit him in hospital.
His assailant, Franck Elong Abe, who had been jailed for terror-related offences, has been charged with another terror offence for the attack on Colonna.
Prosecutors have said he attacked his fellow inmate after being angered by his “blaspheming”.
Around 102 people were injured in clashes on Sunday alone, 77 of them police officers, during clashes in Bastia, Corsica’s second-largest city.
In a surprise move aiming to ease tensions, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in a newspaper interview on Wednesday that the government could be prepared to offer Corsica autonomy.
President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday said that the issue of autonomy of Corsica should not be a “taboo debate”.
But he added there must be an end to the unrest before a discussion gets underway.
“It is a debate that cannot take place until there is absolute calm,” he told a marathon news conference as his campaign for April presidential elections gets underway.