CROWDS of hundreds lined to streets of Ajaccio in tribute on Wednesday evening, as a hearse carrying the coffin of murdered Corsican nationalist Yvan Colonna passed through the capital of the Mediterranean island nation.

Colonna – whose death was announced on Monday – was attacked on March 2 by a fellow inmate at the French prison in which he was serving a life sentence for the 1998 assassination of Corsica’s French prefect Claude Erignac. Colonna denied responsibility for the killing, and had campaigned to be transferred to Corsica, where he could serve his sentence closer to his family.

News of Colonna’s initial attack spurred violent rioting throughout Corsica, where many still perceive him as a symbol of resistance against the French state. Following the announcement of Colonna's death, candle-lit vigils were peacefully held in Corsica’s main cities, where graffiti has appeared reading “Gloria a te”, or “Glory to you.”

In the wake of Colonna’s death, French president Emmanuel Macron, whose government responded to the riots by indicating its openness to the possibility of Corsican autonomy, has appealed for calm.

Speaking to France Bleu radio, Macron promised an investigation to determine the circumstances of Colonna’s death, saying: "The most important thing is that calm continues and that discussions carry on.

"A man has died. It's a serious situation... we can't allow such things to happen in our prisons.”

The possibility of talks on autonomy is widely believed to have helped quell the initial rioting, along with a commitment from French prime minister Jean Castex this week that Colonna’s accomplices Alain Ferrandi and Pierre Alessandri would be transferred to a Corsican prison by mid-April.

With talks on Corsican autonomy set to begin next month, the leader of Corisca’s pro-autonomy regional council Gilles Simeoni has welcomed the French government’s proposals but warned that “they ought now to be extended and firmed up.”

However, French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal earlier this week emphasised the government’s “red lines” – namely, that "Corsica remains a part of the republic and the fact that we will never accept that there are two categories of people in the republic".