Turkish man released after 3 decades in jail over pope shooting

One lawyer said Agca was being taken to a military installation for medical tests to determine whether he should do military service.

Turkish man released after 3 decades in jail over pope shooting

A Turkish man who tried to kill Pope John Paul II, Mehmet Ali Agca, was released from prison in the Turkish capital Ankara on Monday, nearly 30 years after the assassination attempt in St. Peter's Square.

Agca served 19 years in an Italian prison for the attack, before being pardoned on the pope's initiative in 2000 and extradited to serve a sentence in Turkey for other crimes including the 1979 murder of a newspaper editor.

Agca, 52, left the prison compound in a four-car convoy, obscured behind tinted glass windows, although he was seen waving as he got into one of the vehicles inside the compound.

One of his lawyers said Agca was being taken to a military installation for medical tests to determine whether he should do military service.

In 2006, a military hospital ruled that he was not fit for the obligatory military service due to a severe anti-social personality disorder but the Ministry of National Defense did not approve it.

Agca assassinated Ipekci, editor-in-chief of the Milliyet, near his house in Istanbul on February 1, 1979. He fled from prison a few months ago, and attempted to kill Pope John Paul II while he was greeting the faithful in St. Peter's Square on May 13, 1981. Agca was arrested a few minutes after the attack.

Agca was pardoned in 2000 and returned to Turkey where he was immediately re-arrested and given a ten-year prison sentence for murdering Ipekci.

The Turkish authorities had released Agca in January 2006 amid a legal mix-up, but re-arrested him after eight days when a court ruled that reductions to his jail term under amnesty laws and penal code amendments had been miscalculated.

"I am expecting him to be released after the military hospital check-up," lawyer Gokay Gultekin told Reuters.

Agca has claimed the attack was part of a divine plan and has often given contradictory statements, frequently changing his story and forcing investigators to open dozens of inquiries.

Agca's motives for shooting and wounding the pope at the Vatican in 1981 remain shrouded in mystery. Some believe he was working for Soviet-era East European security services alarmed by the Polish-born pontiff's fierce opposition to communism.

Agca has received more than 50 offers from foreign publishers and movie-makers, eager to buy his story in the hope that he may finally shed light on his attempt on the pope, lawyers said.

Pope John Paul II died in 2005.

In a statement issued last week, Agca said he would answer questions on the attack in the coming weeks, including whether the Soviet and Bulgarian governments were involved.


Agencies

Last Mod: 18 Ocak 2010, 16:59
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