Archive for Friday, January 13, 2006

Turk who shot pope released from prison

January 13, 2006


— The man who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981 was released from prison Thursday after serving more than 25 years in Italy and Turkey for the plot against the pontiff and the slaying of a Turkish journalist.

To the cheers of nationalist supporters, a white sedan whisked Mehmet Ali Agca - whose attempt to assassinate the pope gained notoriety for himself and shame for his homeland - through the gates of the high-security Kartal Prison as dozens of police officers stood guard. His supporters showered the car with red and yellow flowers.

But Turkey's justice minister later said authorities will review Agca's release to make sure there were no errors in the handling of the complicated case. He said Agca's release was not "a guaranteed right."

Agca, 48, wearing a blue sweater and jeans, was freed five years after he was pardoned by Italy and extradited to Turkey. He had served 20 years in prison in Italy, where John Paul forgave him in a visit to his cell in 1983.

"We are happy. We endlessly thank the Turkish state," said his brother, Adnan.

He said one of the first things Agca wanted to do was order a typical Turkish meal of beans and rice at a restaurant overlooking the Bosporus Strait, the narrow waterway that bisects Istanbul and joins the European and Asian continents.

Immediately after his release, Agca reported to a military recruitment center and a hospital, both routine procedures, said his attorney, Mustafa Demirbag.

Agca shot the pope as he rode in an open car in St. Peter's Square in Rome on May 13, 1981, and was captured immediately afterward. John Paul was hit in the abdomen, left hand and right arm but recovered because the bullets missed vital organs. Two years after the shooting, the pope met with Agca in prison and forgave him.

Agca's motive remains unclear.

Agca's release passed with little notice at the Vatican, with the official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano ignoring the news and Pope Benedict XVI making no public mention of it during a busy day of audiences and speeches.

Vatican Radio carried a brief interview with a spokesman for Turkish bishops, Monsignor Georges Marovich, who urged the public not to make a big deal about the release.


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