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Corsican separatist faces retrial in murder of governor

A "Corsican Dreyfus" to some, France’s "most wanted man” to others, Yvan Colonna faces retrial over the murder of France’s top representative in Corsica. Nationalist Corsicans demand greater autonomy for their island, French since 1789.

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Read our report on trial and error in the Colonna murder case

 

Corsican nationalist Yvan Colonna, accused of assassinating France’s top representative in Corsica in 1998, will be  retried in Paris on Monday. In 2007, the “most wanted man in France” was sentenced to life in prison following a high-profile trial that riveted France.

 

On Monday, a special terrorism court composed only of judges and no citizens, will convene to hear an appeal case.

 

The case has refocused France’s attention on the issue of nationalism in Corsica, a French island off the coast of Italy, which has its own language and only became French in 1789. Corsican nationalists, some of whom belong to radical organisations, demand greater autonomy for their island.

 

In what is widely seen as the island’s most spectacular separatist attack, Corsica’s governor, Claude Erignac, was gunned down in 1998 as he was walking to a theatre in Ajaccio after parking his car.

 

In 1999, Colonna emerged as the chief suspect in the case. Three suspects, arrested over the murder, had named him as their accomplice – one of them also said he had pulled the trigger. Later, the suspects retracted their allegations, maintaining that they had been made under duress.

 

In May 1999, Colonna escaped to the Corsican hills and evaded police attempts to arrest him for the next four years. In 2003, he was finally arrested in a sheepfold in southern Corsica.

 

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Colonna's lawyer Pascal Garbarini said his client was very “feisty and ready to demonstrate his innocence,” at his Monday appeal hearing. On Friday, Erignac’s widow, Dominique, called on Colonna to “have the courage to admit” he killed her husband. She said she was “convinced” he was guilty.

 

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