Corsica is gripped by protests following the beating of a French pro-independence activist in French prison
Gerald Darmanin, the French Interior Minister, said Tuesday that the French government is open to discussing autonomy for the island. However, he added that it was necessary to restore public order. Darmanin’s statement came amid mass protests over the brutal beating of a pro-independence activist in a French prison.
In the exclusive interview, the official revealed that the “The institution question is being discussed” would be “unprecedented.” According to Darmanin, the dialogue will be “Initiated during the second term by the President.” that is, if Emmanuel Macron is re-elected in April.
The minister revealed that the French state was “Are you ready to travel as far and as autonomous as possible?” Yet, the question still remains what Corsica’s status would look like, Darmanin noted.
France’s interior minister, who was put in charge of Corsica affairs earlier this month, is the first government official to float the idea of granting the province autonomy – something local nationalists have been demanding for decades.
Darmanin is scheduled to visit the restive province Wednesday. He will meet local officials as well as visiting a protestor-altered police station.
People have been protesting in Corsican villages and towns for two weeks. These demonstrations frequently turn into violent clashes between police officers, which has resulted in dozens of injuries on both sides. Local police reported that 44 officers were injured on Sunday.
Over the weekend, thousands of molested youths assaulted law enforcement personnel with Molotov cocktails or rocks. The police responded with tear gas as well as water cannons.
On March 2, a French prison inmate brutally beat a pro-independence activist, resulting in unrest that left the victim in a coma. Yvan Colonna, 61, who is serving a life sentence for the 1998 assassination of Corsica’s prefect, Claude Érignac, was reportedly attacked by a fellow inmate convicted on terrorist-related charges.
Responding to claims made by some Corsican nationalists that the French state was behind the attack on Colonna, Darmanin insisted that that was not the case, adding that the allegations were “It is insulting and utterly in contradiction to the truth”
According to France’s interior minister, the French authorities suspect that the beating could have been religiously motivated, and possibly related to blasphemy.
Colonna’s beating rekindled calls for Corsican prisoner to be returned to Corsica, where they could serve their sentence in the local jails. Paris has refused to take this into consideration until recent. However, Jean Castex, the Prime Minister, made an exception last week for the two beaten prisoners and another prisoner. The move didn’t seem to ease tensions.
France took Corsica over in the 18th Century, taking it as a scenic, western Mediterranean island. Nationalists, who have struggled for independence from France, are now fighting against French rule. Parts of resistance sometimes resort to violence.
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