Clashes intensify in Corsica after prison attack on nationalist figure

Violent clashes have broken out between protesters and police on France’s Mediterranean island of Corsica, as tensions mount over an assault in prison against a nationalist figure.

According to Press TV, Yvan Colonna, incarcerated at Arles Prison, was attacked on March 2 while he was working out alone. He is currently in a coma.

The suspected attacker, Cameroon national Franck Elong Abe, was arrested in Afghanistan and was serving time for terror offences.

An investigation was underway over the assault against Colonna. According to France’s top anti-terror prosecutor, Jean-Francois Ricard, Abe has confessed to the attack, saying he had been angered by “blasphemous statements” made by Colonna while behind bars.

The incident has stoked anger on the island, where some still see Colonna as a hero in a fight for independence. Colonna was arrested in 2003 after a five-year manhunt that eventually found him living as a shepherd in the Corsican Mountains. The 61-year-old pro-independence activist was arrested for the murder of police chief Claude Erignac in 1998, after four years on the run. He has denied the charge.

Hundreds of people took part in a Thursday overnight demonstration in the main Corsican cities of Ajaccio, Calvi, and Bastia, but the situation quickly descended into violence when clashes broke out between some protesters and the police.

Authorities said 14 protesters were wounded in Ajaccio, including a journalist for France’s TF1 TV channel, who was hurt in the leg.

Authorities have long rejected Colonna’s demand to be transferred to Corsica, saying his offence makes him a special status detainee. In an attempt to ease tensions, Prime Minister Jean Castex on Tuesday removed that status, but the move was seen as too little too late by Colonna’s supporters in Corsica.

Meanwhile, some nationalist movements are calling for the protests to continue, and are due to hold a rally in Bastia on Sunday.

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