VARIOUS: Man who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981 expected to be release on Thursday (January 12).
- Title: VARIOUS: Man who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981 expected to be release on Thursday (January 12).
- Date: 12th January 2006
- Summary: (BN01) WADOWICE, POLAND (JANUARY 10, 2006) (REUTERS) WIDE WADOWICE MAIN SQUARE WIDE HOME OF LATE POPE JOHN PAUL II CLOSE UP SIGN SAYING: "HOME OF HOLY FATHER JOHN PAUL II", PANORAMA TO COURTYARD CLOSE UP WINDOW WITH PICTURE OF JOHN PAUL II HANGING OVER IT PANORAMA OF ROOM INSIDE HOUSE MEDIUM NUN WALKING ACROSS CORRIDOR PANORAMA OF FURNACE CLOSE UP PHOTOGRAPH OF JOHN PAUL II VARIOUS NEWSPAPERS WITH HEADLINES OF ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT ON THE POPE CLOSE UP WINDOW WIDE STREET IN FRONT OF HOUSE
- Reuters ID: LVAE8LUF8TQ58JVSXIMZMYHKEGJG
- Duration: 00:01:08
- Aspect Ratio:
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement
- Story Text: Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who shot and seriously wounded Pope John Paul II in 1981 in Rome's St. Peter's Square, is expected to be released from a Turkish prison on Thursday (January 12) after serving 19 years of a life sentence for attempted murder in Italy.
Agca was pardoned by Italy in 2000 at the late Pope's behest and was extradited to Turkey to serve out a separate sentence in an Istanbul jail for robbery and murder.
Former magistrate Ferdinando Imposimato who investigated the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul has urged Turkey to protect Mehmet Ali Agca after his release.
Imposimato also told Reuters in an interview that he was still convinced that the former Soviet KGB was behind one of the most notorious assassination attempts in the 20th century and that secret services were still hiding the truth.
"I think now the Turkish government should work to guarantee Ali Agca's safety because he knows many secrets and somebody could try to kill him" he said. "But I don't think the Turkish government will do too much to protect him."
Imposimato, who is now retired, said Agca life was also in danger because he knew much about the mysterious disappearance in 1983 of Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican employee.
The Vatican at the time received messages from her self-proclaimed kidnappers demanding Agca's release from prison in exchange for her life. She was 15 at the time and has never been heard from since.
Imposimato is now a lawyer for the Orlandi family.
"I also believe that Italian magistrates will try to hear him again because he can say important things both on the attempt on the life of the Pope and on the case of Emanuela Orlandi," Imposimato said.
The Pope almost died from wounds to his abdomen but doctors saved his life, mainly because the bullets missed vital organs. He publicly forgave Agca four days after the shooting and again when he visited his assailant in a Rome prison in 1983.
At the time of the shooting, events in the Pope's Polish homeland were starting a domino effect which was to lead to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989.
The Pope was a staunch supporter of Poland's Solidarity union and most historians agree that he had a vital role in events that led to the formation of the East Bloc's first freely elected government and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
At a 1986 trial, prosecutors failed to prove charges that Bulgarian secret services had hired Agca to kill the Pope on behalf of the Soviet Union.
The so-called "Bulgarian Connection" trial ended with an "acquittal for lack of sufficient evidence" of three Turks and three Bulgarians charged with conspiring along with Agca.
But the verdict, a quirk of the Italian judicial system, fell short of a full acquittal. It meant the jury was not fully convinced of the defendants' innocence but that there was not enough evidence for a guilty verdict.
Imposimato said he believed the court held back because the judge and jury were afraid of the international implications of verdict that implicated the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Imposimato, who was one of Italy's most respected magistrates in the 1980s, said he believed the truth about the assassination attempt was not coming out because former East Bloc secret services were "still very powerful."
"That world to which Agca's accomplices belonged has not completely vanished yet. Former secret service people are still very powerful in the former Soviet Union, in fact Russia's president (Vladimir Putin) is a former KGB officer, and the same can be said about Bulgaria," Imposimato said. "The events are still too near in time, we'd need another twenty, thirty years, because former Communist executives have recycled themselves and are in power in many of the former Communist countries."
News of Agca's release was no surprise for the residents of the late Pope's home town of Wadowice. Many have accepted the pardon given to Agca by John Paul II and forgive his attacker.
"I think this is pretty clear. Ali Agca has committed a crime and received adequate punishment. The Holy Father has forgiven him, so I think it depended only on the courts to keep him in jail or release him," said a resident who was walking by the Pope's house.
An elderly woman in the town square referred to the Christian rule of forgiveness.
"John Paul II forgave him (Ali Agca) everything. In life you should always forgive," she said.
According to another passer by Ali Agca should stay in jail for his crime.
"Even though the Holy Father has forgiven Ali Agca, I still didn't forgive him," she said.
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