Corsican independence fighter Yvan Colonna, who was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of prefect Claude Hérignac in 1998, was attacked by one of his cellmates from the Arles prison in Bouches-du-Rhone on Wednesday. While he is between life and death, the National Anti-Terrorism Attorney’s Office (PNAT) announced on Thursday that it was taking on the case. Let’s get back to the facts in five questions.
How did the attack happen?
In a press release published on Wednesday, the Tarascon prosecutor wrote that the facts took place around 10:15 am that same day in the central house in Arles, where 61-year-old Ivan Colonna is being held.
A former Corsican shepherd and activist for the island’s independence, he was a solo bodybuilder. It was then that one of his fellow prisoners, Frank Elong Abe, entered the room he was supposed to clean, for which he was paid by the prison administration. The two guards who accompanied the prisoner remained outside.
As soon as the door closed, Frank Elong Abe lunged at Ivan Colonna, who was the victim of “bare-handed strangulation and then strangulation,” Tarascon’s prosecutor said Wednesday. According to Peace, the Corsican separatist’s cellmate would also jump with both feet on his back and beat him up before smashing his windpipe “for over a minute”. Then Frank Elong Abe would have covered Ivan Kolonna’s head with a plastic bag.
Peace indicates that the scene was filmed in its entirety by indoor surveillance cameras.
The two men were separated by prison guards. But when they entered the room, Ivan Column’s condition was already critical.
What is the state of health of Ivan Kolonna?
“Internal emergency services performed a heart massage less than 3 minutes after the alarm was sounded,” prosecutor Tarascona specified. “When the firemen arrived and then the SMUR, Ivan Kolona was treated on the spot when he went into cardiac and respiratory arrest. Resuscitators managed to resume cardiac activity. »
The victim was then taken to a hospital in Arles and then quickly transferred to a hospital in Marseille.
According to the prosecutor, Ivan Colonna was in a “post-anoxic coma” with a “life prognosis” in the evening.
In response to a question Thursday morning on the Franceinfo website, Corsica’s executive council president Gilles Simeoni said Ivan Colona’s condition was “almost hopeless” and hinted that the separatist would probably die soon.
The condemnation of Ivan Column: back to the facts
The assassination of the prefect of Corsica, Claude Erignac, on February 6, 1998, caused a shock. In the days that followed, tens of thousands of Corsicans expressed their fear and sadness in the largest demonstrations ever organized in Ajaccio and Bastia.
An anonymous group claimed responsibility for the assassination of the prefect on 9 February. Two nationalist activists were then arrested and will spend long months in jail before being released.
On May 21, 1999, four men were arrested and confessed. An arrest warrant has been issued for a fifth, Ivan Colonna, who is becoming France’s most wanted man after being accused of shooting during police detention.
In June and July 2003, eight nationalists were tried by a special jury in Paris. Four of them put Ivan Colonna to a standstill. However, he was arrested on 4 July 2003 in a sheepfold near the village of Olmeto (Cors-du-Sud).
Eight years later and after three trials, the man who claims he “never killed anyone” was sentenced on June 20, 2011 to life in prison.
He was imprisoned for a long time in the Paris region, and then about ten years ago he was transferred to Arles.
What do we know about the fate of Frank Elong Abe, who attacked him?
Born in Cameroon, Frank Elong Abe spent part of his childhood and youth in Normandy. He was arrested by the US Army in 2012, who handed him over to France in 2014. The man, now 36, was sentenced in 2016 to 9 years in prison for “associating criminals in order to prepare a terrorist act.” “, with a two-thirds protective sentence.
The assailant of Ivan Colonna, described as a “jihadist” by several sources familiar with the matter, is far from having an “exemplary” career in prison. As noted Peace, several violent acts marked his imprisonment. After an escape attempt in 2015, he was sentenced to an additional four years in prison. After attempting suicide, he “briefly took a nurse hostage” from a Lille prison, the newspaper recalls, threatening her with a punch. He also caused 14 incidents in the month and a half after being transferred to the Condé-sur-Sarthe prison. Then in 2019 he was transferred to Arles.
Why did he attack Ivan Colona?
Frank Elong’s motives are currently unknown to Abe. In the central house in Arles, the prison staff is all the more shocked that the aggressor and Yvan Colonna apparently got along well, as the guard explains. Dauphin Liberet:
Everyone is shocked, wondering, and no one understands. Previously, they played sports together, talked to each other. They were in the same building. Both were pretty quiet, never had a problem and didn’t show any signs
Prison guard Eddino Huayac, local secretary FO of the central house of Arles
“The guards did their job. But we are interested in what could have happened,” he continues.
In police custody, Frank Elong Abe claimed that Ivan Colonna “spoke badly of the prophet” and this “blasphemy” was the reason he attacked him.
What subsequent action will be given to this attack?
The case of “attempted murder” was first initiated by the Tarascon prosecutor’s office, entrusted to the criminal brigade of the zonal department of the Southern Judicial Police. Then on Thursday, the national anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office said it was taking on the case, reclassifying the facts as “attempted murder in connection with terrorist activities.” The decision is partly motivated by the statements and background of Frank Elong Abe, as well as “the ongoing execution of a sentence for a terrorist offense by this person,” PNAT says.
The detention of Frank Elong Abe is still ongoing. The investigation was entrusted to the Judicial Police, DGSI (General Directorate of Internal Security) and Sdat (Anti-Terrorist Unit of the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police), responsible for coordination.
The prime minister also seized the General Inspectorate of Justice to investigate possible shortcomings on the part of the administration and prison staff.
There were also several voices condemning Ivan Colonna’s aggression, starting with Gilles Simeoni, who on Wednesday calculated that the state bears a “tremendous responsibility” for this aggression. “If the right of rapprochement had been applied to Ivan Colonna, as it should have been, the tragedy would not have occurred,” said this Thursday also the chairman of the executive council of Corsica, who condemned the “logical state revenge” on franceinfo. He added that he was waiting for an investigation with a “form of defiance”.
One of Yvan Colonna’s lawyers, Mé Sylvain Cormier, for his part, found it “surprising” that although his client “is one of the most closely watched prisoners in France by virtue of his status (…) who prevent him from approaching his relatives in Corsica, the prison administration has proved unable to provide him with basic protection.”
Ivan Colonna’s family came forward through a press release hours after the attack. They expressed their “anger and incomprehension”. “For 10 years, as a matter of common law, he asked to be sent to a prison in Corsica along with his family. For essentially political reasons, his requests were systematically denied,” recalls his family, who believe that the attack “demonstrates (…) the untenability of the exclusive prison status to which he was unjustly subjected. A failure for which he risks paying with his life.