France calls for calm after Corsican nationalist dies from prison assault
The Corsican nationalist Yvan Colonna was being held in a prison in southern France over the assassination of a senior French official in 1998.
The French government issued an appeal for calm on Tuesday, following the death of imprisoned Corsican nationalist Yvan Colonna, which prompted concerns of more bloodshed on the French Mediterranean island.
Colonna was allegedly attacked by a fellow inmate on March 2 in a prison in southern France where he was being held for the 1998 assassination of a senior French government official. Those who consider Colonna a hero of independence were outraged.
French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal told Europe 1 radio on Tuesday that a call for calm and dialogue is needed, adding that "everything will be done to shed light on events which led to this unacceptable situation."
A suspected "Islamic extremist" was responsible for the fatal blow after he left Colonna in a coma. An inquiry into the attack is underway.
Colonna's lawyer Patrice Spinosi told AFP on Monday that his family requests respect for its grief and will not be making any comments.
Colonna died in a hospital in Marseille, after the French judiciary suspended his sentence due to medical injuries on March 17.
Last Wednesday, Paris announced it might offer Corsica "autonomy" to ease tensions between the Mediterranean island's fervent independence movement and the French state, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin claimed.
President Emmanuel Macron stated that the matter should not be considered "taboo", but that there must be an end to the disturbance before a debate can take place.
Last Thursday, Macron said, "It is a debate that cannot take place until there is absolute calm."
Colonna was apprehended in 2003 following a five-year quest that led to his discovery as a shepherd in the Corsican Alps. He was later sentenced to life in jail for assassinating Corsica's senior provincial politician, Claude Erignac, in 1998.
Darmanin's remarks last week and subsequent visit to Corsica allegedly helped to defuse tensions, but it remains to be seen how nationalists respond to Colonna's death.
Colonna's supporters have long advocated for his release or, at the very least, his transfer from continental France to a Corsican jail out of fear for his health and life.
Gilles Simeoni, the leader of Corsica's pro-autonomy regional council, told AFP that Darmanin's proposals are "important words that open up prospects, but they ought now to be extended and firmed up."
The National Liberation Front of Corsica (FLNC), which laid down its arms in 2014, warned that if Paris remained in a state of "contemptuous denial", it could resume its fight.
According to a memorandum agreed on by Darmanin and Simeoni, independence talks are scheduled for April and will be concluded by the end of 2022.
Attal highlighted the government's "red lines" on Tuesday — that "Corsica remains a part of the republic and the fact that we will never accept that there are two categories of people in the republic."