Trial for alleged killer of Corsican governor opens
12 November 2007, PARIS - A 47 year-old goatherd went on trial amid tight security in Paris on Monday accused of the murder nearly 10 years ago of France's senior state representative on the Mediterranean island of Corsica.
12 November 2007
PARIS - A 47 year-old goatherd went on trial amid tight security in Paris on Monday accused of the murder nearly 10 years ago of France's senior state representative on the Mediterranean island of Corsica.
Yvan Colonna is accused of gunning down Claude Erignac, 60, the state-appointed "prefect" or governor of Corsica, in the most spectacular attack in some 30 years of separatist violence.
Erignac was shot three times in the back of the head as he walked to a concert hall in the capital Ajaccio in February 1998.
The son of a former Corsican member of parliament, Colonna spent several years in hiding in the mountains of Corsica after being named as a suspect and was finally captured in 2003.
His lawyers are expected to argue that the trial at a special terrorist court in the French capital cannot be fair because Colonna's presumption of innocence has been consistently flouted.
The day of his arrest President Nicolas Sarkozy -- then interior minister-- said he was delighted at the capture of "Claude Erignac's murderer".
Prosecutors say Colonna fired the shots with a gun that was left at the scene. Six other people who took part in the plot have since been sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
The main evidence against Colonna is the testimony of other plot-members, though they have since claimed it was extracted under duress.
In his long period on the run, the suspect enjoyed protection under Corsica's code of omerta (silence). Last week well-known Corsican singer Patrizia Gattaceca, who admitted she gave shelter to Colonna, was placed under investigation for harbouring a criminal.
Erignac's widow Dominique said she hoped that the trial -- expected to lasta month -- would help answer the question why her husband was murdered.
"I hope (Colonna) will tell the truth. It would be an act of courage on his part. My children and I have a right to the truth," she said.
Corsica, which has some 250,000 inhabitants, has been the site of agenerally low-level campaign of nationalist-inspired attacks since 1975. Government buildings and holiday homes have most often been targeted, and the murder of a senior official marked a dramatic escalation.
Subject: French news