PARIS (Reuters) – France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Monday that he would travel to Corsica later this week and hold talks with local elected officials after violent protests erupted on the weekend, a few weeks before the presidential election.
Calm must be restored immediately, the minister said in a statement.
Darmanin will head to Corsica on Wednesday and Thursday.
Protesters in the northern Corsican town of Bastia attacked public buildings and threw projectiles at police on Sunday in the latest demonstration over an attack on a jailed nationalist at a mainland French prison.
Colonna, a Corsican shepherd, is serving a life sentence for the 1998 murder of Claude Erignac, who as prefect of Corsica embodied the power of the French state on an island with a history of separatist violence.
The attack left the Corsican militant in a coma and led to renewed calls for nationalist prisoners to be transferred from the French mainland to the island, closer to their families. [L5N2V62VV]
Authorities have long rejected these demands, saying nationalist prisoners were special status prisoners.
In a bid to ease tensions, Prime Minister Jean Castex last week removed this status for Colonna and two other detainees, members of the so-called “Erignac commando”. But the move was seen as too little too late by Colonna’s supporters in Corsica.
French prosecutors have also launched a terrorism investigation as Colonna’s attacker was serving a nine-year sentence for planning terrorist attacks.
(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel, Editing by Dominique Vidalon and Kim Coghill)