Yvan Colonna’s assailant is a radicalized fellow prisoner. His assailant accused him of alleged blasphemy.
They were often seen trotting together on the 5,400 square meter sports field of the Arles central house (Bouches du Rhone). Yvan Colonna, 61, knows the smallest side dishes. Sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder – which he always denied – of the prefect Claude Érignac in 1998, the Corsican nationalist takes care of his form. He is one of 135 inmates in this small prison, one of the safest in France. His jogging partner is called Franck Elong Abé. This Franco-Cameroonian convert to Islam is twenty-five years younger than the “pastor of Cargèse”, but he has worrying “service records”. Arrested by US troops in 2012 in Afghanistan, where he was fighting alongside the Taliban, he was handed over to France two years later. In 2016 he was sentenced to nine years of imprisonment for “criminal association aimed at preparing an act of terrorism”. Despite the differences in age and background, the two men developed a certain camaraderie, linked in particular to games of chess.
I spit on God!
But this cordial agreement was suddenly broken on Monday, February 28th. That day, Yvan Colonna and Franck Elong Abé talk in the “gourbi corso”, a kind of kitchen where prisoners meet. The exchange takes a stormy turn when it comes to the topic of religion. “I spit on God! exclaimed the independence activist. We will learn this three days later. After the worst happened.
On Wednesday, March 2, shortly after 10, Colonna performed a series of push-ups in the prison weight room. It’s an old passion. Before dedicating his life to the nationalist cause, he had started studying to become a sports teacher. According to the first elements gathered, Franck Elong Abé should provide for the maintenance of the gymnasium as “floor assistant”. But when he comes into the room, it’s not to do the housework or to lift the iron. As soon as the door closed, he threw himself on the course, strangled him with his bare hands or using a towel, jumped on his back with his feet together and pressed his windpipe for a long time. Eight minutes of unprecedented relentlessness. As he leaves the scene, the “presumed innocent” placidly warns the brigade: “Colonna was not feeling well. But the CCTV device captured the whole scene. “The emergency services provided a heart massage to the victim less than three minutes after the alert,” said the Tarascon prosecutor. Transported to the Arles hospital center, Yvan Colonna was then transferred to the North hospital in Marseille, in a post-anoxic coma caused by an interruption in the oxygenation of the brain. His life prognosis was still busy Monday as we were printing these lines.
He is an extremely cultured person, he reads three books a week!
The guards of the Arles plant, interviewed by the press, expressed their astonishment: no animosity had previously been noted between the two men. The prison administration itself recognized that Yvan Colonna was a quiet prisoner. Deprived of his freedom for eighteen years, the man spent his days doing “bodybuilding”, chatting in the “gourbi corso” and devouring books. “He is an extremely cultured person, he reads three books a week! confides his friend and former lawyer Pascal-Pierre Garbarini. And then there’s Stephanie, the woman he married in March 2011, two months before his third trial. A son was born at their union the same year.
Corsica, under tension, is suspended on the state of health of the nationalist militant
By contrast, Franck Elong Abé’s detention was chaotic, including failed suicide, taking a nurse hostage, attempting to escape and repeated fires. After being jailed in Rouen, Nantes and Condé-sur-Sarthe, he had been serving his sentence in Arles since October 2019. Despite this heavy pedigree and his status as a “particularly denounced prisoner” (DPS), the man was paid by the prison administration as “auxi” and released in late 2023.
Placed in police custody, Franck Elong Abé justified his attack, in front of the police, with the “blasphemy” allegedly pronounced by Yvan Colonna. Was his action premeditated? This is one of the issues that will have to be resolved by the investigation opened for “attempted murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise” by the National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor’s Office (PNAT). In Corsica, the drama has united the entire political spectrum, which reproaches the government for having always refused the “rapprochement” of the militants condemned for the murder of the prefect Érignac (in addition to Yvan Colonna, Alain Ferrandi and Pierre Alessandri are incarcerated in the central Poissy). “The state has a primary responsibility, overwhelming in what happened”, denounces Gilles Simeoni, president of the executive council of Corsica and former lawyer of Colonna, on the sidelines of a rally in front of the regional prefecture. The island, under tension, is now suspended due to the state of health of the nationalist militant.
For its part, the government argues that the transfer of DPS to Corsica is unthinkable, because prisons are not designed to accommodate them. He should therefore revoke this status, which Jean Castex has already refused to do twice since he was in Matignon. However, the executive looks a bit embarrassed on the corners. To the point that the Ministry of Justice has promised a mission from its Inspectorate General to “shed light on the conditions of this particularly serious attack”. The “nations” hope that the administrative investigation will establish the reasons why no one, despite the video surveillance system, intervened to put an end to this attack.
Read also.Gilles Simeoni on Yvan Colonna’s aggression: “The Corsican people don’t understand”
Two days after the crime, the architect of the 1995 Paris attacks, Smaïn Ait Ali Belkacem, one of the most dangerous Tis (“Islamist terrorist” detainees), according to our information, was taken from his cell. “The Raid came to pick it up at the Arles power station and mounted it urgently in Paris,” says a source within the prison administration. The man was questioned at length about his possible links with Yvan Colonna’s striker. The day before, at the Borgo prison (Haute-Corse), the inmates started a strike of the meal tray and hung the Corsican flag on the fence. This is the prison where Yvan Colonna has been asking for his transfer for some time.
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