Would-be papal assassin released from Turkish prison

By Branko Brkic 18 January 2010

Twenty-nine years later, questions about motive, means and opportunity remain unanswered.

Mehmet Ali Agca, the man responsible for the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II on 13 May 1981, gained his release today from a Turkish prison, after 29 years of incarceration. Ali Agca had been in prison in Turkey for a decade on his conviction for killing a Turkish journalist in 1979 in Turkey, after serving 19 years in an Italian prison for his attempt on the pope.

The day after the attempt, the New York Times reported that the pope “was shot and seriously wounded yesterday as he was standing in an open car moving slowly among more than 10,000 worshipers in St. Peter’s Square. The police arrested a gunman who was later identified as an escaped Turkish murderer who had previously threatened the Pope’s life in the name of Islam.”

After he was released from prison, the 52-year-old Agca was whisked directly to a Turkish military hospital for an assessment for possible military service. A peek at Ali Agca’s hospital evaluation in 2006 had shown he was not fit for military service because of a “severe anti-social personality disorder”. As he was being released from prison, his lawyer released a statement by Alai Agca that read: “I proclaim the end of the world. All the world will be destroyed in this century. Every human being will die in this century… I am the Christ eternal.” His lawyer added: “Agca is shocked and disappointed that he might be enrolled for military service. He says it is against his religious and philosophical beliefs to bear arms.” Doesn’t sound like officer material to us.

Two years after Ali Agca had tried to kill him, Pope John Paul II visited him in Italy’s Rebibia prison in 1983 to forgive him for the shooting. Although rumors abound, the real motive for the assassination attempt remains unclear, although Ali Agca has hinted that foreign powers had conspired to have the Polish-born pontiff killed. Just after the attack, Agca declared he had acted alone, but later he suggested Bulgaria and the Soviet Union’s KGB were behind the attack. Or maybe not. His contradictory comments have proved to be frustrating to prosecutors for nearly three decades.

By J. Brooks Spector

For more, read the AP and the New York Times


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