/ languages

Choisir langue


Colonna sentenced to life for killing Corsican official

Article published on the 2009-03-28 Latest update 2009-03-28 10:48 TU

Photo of Yvan Colonna provided by the Interior Ministry in 1999(Photo: AFP)

Photo of Yvan Colonna provided by the Interior Ministry in 1999
(Photo: AFP)

A Paris appeals court specialised in terrorism sentenced Yvan Colonna to life in prison Friday for killing the prefect of Corsica, Claude Erignac, in 1998. Erignac’s murder was one of the most brutal incidents in 30 years of simmering separatist violence on the island department off the coast of southern France. Six other people have been convicted for taking part in the plot, though the judges concluded it was Colonna who pulled the trigger.

Colonna, 48, who went on the run after the murder and was captured in 2003, has maintained his innocence. His defence lawyers say that he was convicted even before the trial.

“This court refused, on principle, to imagine any other theory, other than his guilt,” said one of his lawyers, Antoine Sollacaro, after the verdict.

Colonna and his lawyers bocottted the last two weeks of the trial. A balif went to the Fresnes prison where he is being held to tell him the news.

He was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum of 22 years behind bars, the strongest possible sentence he could have been given.

The nine-judge court determined that Colonna “voluntarily killed” Erignac and also found him guilty of attacking a police station in Pietrosella, in the south of the island, to get the murder weapon.

Colonna was initially convicted on the testimony from the others convicted of the plot, which they later retracted, saying they were coerced. Colonna’s lawyers argue that there is not enough material proof of their client’s guilt.

They will start a campaign to reverse the sentence, and say they are ready to take the case all the way to the European court of human rights.

Colonna is a goat herder, and the son of a former member of the French parliament. The court says he was a member of the separatist National Front for the Liberation of Corsica (FLNC), but he has said that he only supported the cause, but was not involved.

Separatists on the 250,000-person island have destroyed property – torching government buildings and vacation homes – in their campaign for independence.