Riots shake French Corsica following the attack on an imprisoned nationalist | News

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Hundreds of Yvan Colonna’s supporters gather in the main Corsican cities of Ajaccio, Calvi and Bastia, with protests rapidly degenerating into clashes.

Violent clashes have erupted between protesters and police on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, France, following the prison assault of a nationalist figure.

Yvan Colonna, who is serving a life sentence for the 1998 assassination of senior Corsican regional official Claude Erignac, is currently in a coma after being beaten on March 2 in prison by a fellow prisoner who was serving a sentence for “terrorist” offences.

The incident stoked anger on the island where some still see Colonna – who was only 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.

Hundreds of people demonstrated overnight Thursday in the main Corsican cities of Ajaccio, Calvi and Bastia, as protests quickly degenerated into clashes with security forces, according to the AFP news agency.

Protesters gather in Corte during a rally in support of Yvan Colonna [Pascal Pochard-Casabianca/AFP]

In Ajaccio, demonstrators even burst into the main building of justice, setting fire to draft papers. They then ransacked a bank.

Local authorities said 14 people were injured in Ajaccio alone, including a journalist from French television channel TF1 who suffered a leg injury.

Inmate with special status

Colonna has been imprisoned in the south of France, with authorities long rejecting his request to transfer to Corsica, saying his offense made him a special-status detainee.

In order to ease tensions, Prime Minister Jean Castex abolished this status on Tuesday, but this decision was deemed too little too late by supporters of Colonna in Corsica.

French prosecutors have charged Colonna’s alleged attacker, Franck Elong Abe, with attempted murder in association with “a terrorist group”.

According to France’s top counter-terrorism prosecutor, Jean-Francois Ricard, Franck Elong Abe had confessed to the attack, saying he had been angered by “blasphemous statements” made by Colonna while behind bars.

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