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Riots shake Corsica over assault of jailed nationalist figure

Violent clashes broke out between protesters and police overnight on France's Mediterranean island of Corsica as anger intensified over the assault in prison of a nationalist figure.

Riots shake Corsica over assault of jailed nationalist figure
Protests in Ajaccio in support of jailed Corsican nationalist Yvan Colonna turned violent. (Photo: Pascal Pochard-Casabianca / AFP)

Yvan Colonna, who is 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 2nd 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 only 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 demonstrated in the main Corsican cities of Ajaccio, Calvi and Bastia with the protests rapidly degenerating into clashes with security forces.

In Ajaccio, protesters broke into the main justice building, setting fire to scrap papers. They then went on to ransack a bank.

Local authorities said 14 people were wounded in Ajaccio alone, including a journalist for France’s TF1 TV channel, who was wounded in the leg.

Colonna was jailed in the south of France with authorities long rejecting his demand to be transferred to Corsica, saying his offence made him a special status detainee.

In a bid to ease tensions, Prime Minister Jean Castex on Tuesday removed this status, but the move was seen as too little too late by Colonna’s supporters in Corsica.

French prosecutors have charged Colonna’s alleged jail assailant, Franck Elong Abe, with attempted murder in association with a terror group.

According to France’s top anti-terror 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.

Member comments

  1. France should show steely determination in arresting all terrorists and rioters, we can’t have these people ruining French society.

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POLICE

French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window ‘may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack’

An 89-year-old man who was pushed out of his 17th-storey window by a neighbour may have been killed because he was Jewish, a prosecutor said on Friday, after several shocking anti-Semitic murders in France in recent years.

French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window 'may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack'

The victim’s body was found at the foot of his building in Lyon, southeast France, on May 17th and the 51-year-old neighbour was arrested. But investigators did not initially charge him with a racist crime.

Last Sunday, the BNVCA anti-Semitism watchdog group said it would seek to be a plaintiff in the case, citing its similarity with the 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old thrown from her window in a case that sparked national outcry.

“After social media postings were provided to us, the prosector’s office has asked judges to consider the aggravating circumstance of an act committed because of the victim’s ethnicity, nationality, race or religion,” Lyon prosecutor Nicolas Jacquet told AFP.

He did not provide examples of the posts, but Gilles-William Goldnadel, a lawyer and commentator for CNews television, said on Wednesday on Twitter that the suspect had called out Goldnabel in messages, including one that told him to “remember your origins.”

“It’s no longer a question of telling us it’s the act of a mentally disturbed person. The truth of anti-Semitism must no longer be hidden,” Goldnadel wrote.

France has grappled with a sharp rise in violence targeting its roughly 500,000 Jews, the largest community in Europe, in addition to jihadist attacks in recent years.

The murder of Halimi drew particular outrage after the killer, who had shouted “Allahu akbar” (“God is greatest” in Arabic), avoided trial because a judge determined he was under the influence of drugs and not criminally responsible.

That prompted President Emmanuel Macron to seek a law change to ensure people face responsibility for violent crimes while under the influence of drugs, which was adopted in December 2021.

In 2018, 85-year-old Mireille Knoll was brutally stabbed in an attack by two men said to have been looking for “hidden treasures” in her Paris apartment.

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