Pope John Paul II gunman released from prison
The Turkish man who shot Pope John Paul II nearly 29 years ago rode out of jail Monday, declared himself a messenger from God, then spent his first night of freedom in a luxury hotel room.
Mehmet Ali Agca, 52, said he would talk to the media in the next few days.
But it seemed doubtful that his comments would clear up uncertainty over whether he acted alone or had the backing of communist agents, as he once claimed. He has issued contradictory statements over the years and there are questions about his mental health.
Agca shot John Paul on May 13, 1981, as the pope rode in an open car in St. Peter’s Square. The pontiff was hit in the abdomen, left hand and right arm.
John Paul met with Agca in Italy’s Rebibbia prison in 1983 and forgave him.
Following his release, Agca, his hair now gray, waved to journalists and sat calmly between two plainclothes policemen in the back of a sedan that took him to a military hospital. There, doctors concluded he was unfit for compulsory military service because of “severe anti-social personality disorder,” said his lawyer, Yilmaz Abosoglu.
Upon his arrival later at the five-star Sheraton hotel, he addressed reporters in English. He had traded the blue sweat shirt he wore when he left jail for a dark blue suit and tie.
“I will meet you in the next three days,” Agca said. “In the name of God Almighty, I proclaim the end of the world in this century. All the world will be destroyed, every human being will die. I am not God, I am not son of God, I am Christ eternal.”
Agca, who has previously claimed to be the Messiah, said the Gospel was full of mistakes and he would write the perfect one. He delivered a similar message in a long, rambling statement distributed by Abosoglu outside the prison in Sincan on the outskirts of Ankara, the Turkish capital.
Another lawyer, Gokay Gultekin, said Agca was planning to hold a news conference Wednesday.
An army of journalists created chaos in the hotel lobby, scattering chairs as hotel staff looked on helplessly. Agca then took the elevator to his room, where he rested in the company of his brother Adnan Agca and some friends, Gultekin said.
His brother said they were likely to travel to Istanbul later in the week.
Agca, who has said he wants to travel to the Vatican, does not have a passport. One of his lawyers once said that Agca had converted to Christianity while in jail. The motive for the attack on the pope remains unclear but it has not been linked to Islamic issues.
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said there were no plans to comment on the release. Robert Necek, spokesman for Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland, who served as secretary to John Paul II, also would not comment.
When Agca was arrested, minutes after the attack, he said he had acted alone. Later, he suggested Bulgaria and the Soviet Union’s KGB were behind the attack, but then backed away from that assertion. His contradictory statements have frustrated prosecutors over the decades.
Prosecutors in Poland who are investigating Agca’s attack on Pope John Paul II said his release had no influence on the investigation.
“Testimony from a person who first sells the information to the media … is of no value to us,” prosecutor Ewa Koj of the National Remembrance Institute said. Koj also noted that Agca had changed his testimony many times.
Prosecutors at the institute are studying over 4,000 pages of documents, including Agca’s testimony, they have received from Italy.
Agca had said that he would answer questions about the attack after he was released from prison. He has also said he is beginning to consider book, film and television documentary offers.
He was released after completing his sentence for killing journalist Abdi Ipekci in 1979. He had received a life sentence, which amounts to 36 years under Turkish law, for murdering Ipekci, but he escaped from a Turkish prison less than six months into the sentence and shot the pope in Rome two years later.
Agca reportedly sympathized with the Gray Wolves, a far right-wing militant group that fought street battles against leftists in the 1970s. He initially confessed to killing Ipekci, one of the country’s most prominent left-wing newspaper columnists, but later retracted that.
After his extradition on June 14, 2000, Agca was separately sentenced to seven years and four months for two robberies in Turkey in 1979. But authorities deducted the prison sentence he had served in Italy, and several amnesties and amendments of the penal code further reduced his term. The situation complicated the calculation of his remaining term and led to his wrongful release from prison in 2006. He was re-imprisoned eight days later.