France suspends Corsican nationalist's jail term after clashes

France suspends Corsican nationalist's jail term after clashes

The French judiciary on Thursday suspended the prison sentence of a Corsican nationalist jailed for the assassination of a top official, as the government seeks to ease tensions and end violent clashes on the Mediterranean island.

Yvan Colonna, who has been 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 2 in jail 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 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.

A judge ruled that Colonna should be accorded a suspension of his sentence "for medical reasons", a judiciary source, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

Colonna remains in hospital in Marseille but the ruling means he is no longer under the administration of the prison authorities.

Prosecutors have said he attacked his fellow inmate after being angered by his "blaspheming".

In a surprise move aiming to ease tensions, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in a newspaper interview on Wednesday that the government could be prepared to offer Corsica autonomy.

President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday said that the issue of autonomy of Corsica should not be a "taboo debate".

But he added there must be an end to the unrest before a discussion gets underway.

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