Imprisoned Nationalist Dies After Jihadist Attack

The Mediterranean island of Corsica could see another explosion of protests and riots after the death of well-known nationalist Yvan Colonna. Colonna was attacked in prison by a Jihadist prisoner from Camaroon on March 2, putting him in a coma and sparking outrage and violence in Corsica. French President Emmanuel Macron, who faces a reelection battle in April, has suggested that some concessions can be made to increase Corsican autonomy.

Corsican nationalist attacked in prison

Corsican nationalists took to the streets earlier in March after news emerged that Colonna had been brutally beaten by a fellow inmate in the Marseille prison where he was being held.

The 61-year-old was attacked by Cameroonian terrorist Franck Elong Abé in the prison gym, allegedly after Colonna insulted the prophet Muhammad.

He was moved to the hospital in a coma and died on March 21. Colonna, a former shepherd, was serving a life sentence for the 1998 murder of Claude Érignac, then prefect of Corsica and thus the local  embodiment of French governance.

Colonna has always maintained his innocence and other Corsican nationalists have seen him as a martyr falsely accused by the government because of his support for independence.

Even some Corsicans who believe that he was guilty of the murder were willing to protest against the manner of his death, feeling that he should have been transferred to a Corsican prison long ago and that the government enabled the assault.

Dozens of people were injured in rioting earlier in March. In response, President Macron reversed his previous stance and announced that he would be willing to grant greater autonomy to the island.

Macron considers greater autonomy

Corsica has been a French possession since 1769, when a French army invaded to put an end to the island’s short-lived independent republic led by Pasquale Paoli.

The island’s most famous son was born in the same year; Napoleon Bonaparte began his career as an ardent Corsican nationalist and a devoted admirer of Paoli.

The young Bonaparte found that Paoli wasn’t particularly taken with his admiration when he finally met his idol. Napoleon went on to become the Emperor of France and Corsica has remained French.

Interest in the Corsican nationalist movement revived in the 20th century, with supporters calling for anything from greater autonomy within France to complete independence.

The current flare-up is a real headache for Macron, who has been presented with a choice between letting riots continue as the first round of the election approaches or bowing to their demands for autonomy and appearing weak as voters head to the polls.

Other candidates have expressed concerns about how the attack on Colonna was allowed to happen; right-wing candidate Eric Zemmour’s campaign simply stated that the attacker should have been deported years ago.

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