France suspends prison sentence for Corsican nationalist Ivan Colonna after clashes

On Thursday, the French judiciary suspended the prison sentence of a Corsican citizen who was imprisoned for the assassination of a senior official, as the government seeks to calm tensions and end violent clashes on the Mediterranean island.

Ivan Colonna, who is serving a life sentence for the 1998 murder of Corsica’s top regional official Claude Irignac, is currently in a coma after being beaten March 2 in prison by another detainee serving a sentence for terrorist offenses.

The incident sparked outrage on the island where some still see Colonna – who was arrested in 2003 after a five-year hunt that eventually found him living as a shepherd in the mountains of Corsica – as a hero in the struggle for independence.

A judicial source, who asked not to be named, told AFP that a judge had ruled that Colonna’s sentence should be suspended for “medical reasons”.

The request had been submitted by his lawyers, and the plaintiffs had also approved it.

Colonna remains in hospital in Marseille, but the ruling means he is no longer under the control of prison authorities.

The immediate effect is that his relatives will not need permission to visit him in the hospital.

His attacker, Frank Elong Abe, who was imprisoned for terrorism-related offenses, was charged with another terrorist charge for the Colonna attack.

Prosecutors said he attacked a fellow prisoner after he was angered by his “blasphemy”.

About 102 people were injured in Sunday’s clashes alone, 77 of them police officers, during clashes in Bastia, Corsica’s second largest city.

In a surprise move aimed at easing tensions, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in a newspaper interview on Wednesday that the government may be willing to grant autonomy to Corsica.

President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that the question of Corsica’s autonomy should not be a “taboo discussion”.

But he added that the unrest must be ended before the discussion can begin.

“It’s a debate that can’t happen until there is absolute calm,” he said at a marathon news conference as he began his campaign for the April presidential election.


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