Violent clashes erupted between protesters and police from Wednesday night to Thursday on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica as local anger escalated over the assault on a nationalist figure in prison.
Ivan Colonna is serving a life sentence for the 1998 assassination of Corsica regional official Claude Irignac, and is currently in a coma after being beaten on March 2 in prison by another detainee serving a sentence for terrorist offenses.
The incident sparked outrage on the island where some still see Colonna – who was only captured in 2003 after a five-year hunt that eventually found him living as a shepherd in the mountains of Corsica – as a hero in the struggle for independence.
Hundreds demonstrated in Corsica’s cities of Ajaccio, Calvi and Bastia, and the protests quickly turned into clashes with security forces, AFP correspondents reported.
In Ajaccio, protesters stormed the main justice building, setting paper clippings on fire. Then they went to ransack a bank.
Local authorities said 14 people were injured in Ajaccio alone, including a journalist for French TV channel TF1 who was shot in the leg.
Colonna was imprisoned in southern France with the authorities long ago refusing his demand to be transferred to Corsica, saying his offense put him in a special situation.
In an effort to ease tensions, Prime Minister Jan Castix on Tuesday rescinded the status, but Colonna supporters in Corsica considered the move too little too late.
French prosecutors have charged the alleged Colonna attacker in prison, Frank Elong Abbe, with attempted murder in association with a terrorist group.
According to Jean-François Ricard, France’s top anti-terror prosecutor, Frank Elong Abbe admitted to the attack, saying he was angry at Colonna’s “blasphemy statements” while she was behind bars.