Tuesday, January 12, 2010

John Paul II failed assassin walks free

Agencies IE, Jan 18, 2010

Ankara : Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who tried to kill pope John Paul II in 1981, was released from prison on Monday after almost three decades behind bars, his lawyer said. "The release procedure has been completed," Yilmaz Abosoglu said outside a high-security prison near Ankara, where an army of reporters awaited Agca to emerge from the compound.

The lawyer explained that the 52-year-old would be immediately taken to an army recruitment office to sort out procedures concerning his status as a draft dodger.

Agca was a 23-year-old militant of the notorious far-right Grey Wolves, on the run from Turkish justice facing murder charges, when he resurfaced in Saint Peter's Square in Rome on May 13, 1981 and opened fire on the pope as he drove to an audience in an open vehicle.

John Paul II was seriously wounded in the abdomen and Agca spent the next 19 years in Italian prisons.

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

Charges that the Soviet Union and then-communist Bulgaria were behind the assassination attempt were never proved.

In 2000, Italy pardoned Agca and extradited him to Turkey, where he was convicted for the murder of prominent journalist Abdi Ipekci, two armed robberies and escaping from prison, crimes all dating back to the 1970s.

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