The French judicial police are investigating the attack on Colonna as “attempted murder.” The man, Franck Elong Abé, 36, has a long criminal record. He was serving a sentence in France after being arrested in Afghanistan. According to French newspaper Libération, the aggressor allegedly strangled Colonna after the Corsican prisoner had uttered a “blasphemy.”
Yvan Colonna is a Corsican nationalist activist sentenced to life imprisonment in 2007 for the murder of prefect Claude Érignac. Colonna has always maintained his innocence. Corsican nationalism considers that there were political motivations in his trial.
Current Corsican president Gilles Simeoni was the lawyer who defended Colonna. Simeoni said today in an interview to France Info that Corsican prisoners “had been designated as targets by radical Islamist networks” and that he himself had warned all “prime ministers and government interlocutors” since 2016.
Harsh accusations against French authorities
Corsican parties have been unanimous in their reactions against the French authorities, whom they accuse of having neglected Colonna’s safety.
Femu en Corsica, Simeoni’s party, speaks of an “irrefutable responsibility” of the “French state.” Corsica’s ruling pro-autonomy party recalls that elected representatives and associations alike have insistently demanded that Colonna be transferred to a prison in Corsica. “Had [Colonna’s] right” to be brought back to a Corsican prison “been applied,” the party’s communiqué reads, this “drama would not have taken place.” “Instead,” the statement goes on, “the [French] state’s logic of revenge, implemented for more than two decades, has today found its most disastrous culmination.”
More explicit are the two main Corsican pro-independence parties, Core in Fronte and Femu en Corsica, which are sharing the slogan “Statu francese assassinu” (“French state assassin”) and are calling for a protest in Ajaccio on Saturday 5, under the same motto.
In an even louder tone, the Corsican political prisoners’ support association, Associu Sulidarità, has asked the French state whether “the goal” was “[Colonna’s] death in prison.”
The Corsican Nation Party has meanwhile voiced worries about a possible “mission” by Elong Abé against Colonna. “The political situation is extremely serious,” the pro-autonomy party said.
Rallies in several towns
As soon as the incident in prison became known, the Corsican nationalist movement held several protest rallies in the main towns of Corsica.
Hundreds of members of the Corsican movement met Thursday 3 to discuss the situation and called a demonstration for Sunday 6 in Corti, Corsica’s historic capital.
The French state’s refusal to bring political prisoners back to Corsican prisons is one more of several systematic refusals from Paris to the Corsican nationalists in recent years. Corsican nationalist parties, which have won three consecutive elections to the Corsican Assembly since 2015 with an increasingly high percentage of support, are demanding legislative autonomy, the co-official status of the Corsican language, and the approval of a resident status. The French government has repeatedly ruled out all three measures.