attempt about 25 years ago, was released from prison in Istanbul, Thursday, January 12, and nationalist supporters were cheering him.
Agca, who just celebrated his 48th birthday, was freed five years after he was pardoned by Italy and extradited to Turkey. He had served 20 years in prison in Italy.
In Turkey, Agca was punished for separate crimes, including a 10-year sentence for urdering Turkish journalist Abdi Ipekci in 1979 and seven years and four months for wo robberies in Turkey the same year.
"We are happy. We endlessly thank the Turkish state," said his brother, Adnan Agca. He arlier explained that his brother unsuccessfully requested to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II, because the two had become friends.
His brother shot Pope John Paul II four times on May 13, 1981, with his nine millimeter pistol from some 15 feet (5 meters) away while the pontiff met the crowds in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
KGB INVOLVEMENT CLAIM
The Turk initially claimed he was acting alone in the attack, but later said he was trained by Bulgarian and Czech experts and blamed the Soviet secret service KGB for the attempted assassination.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and Bulgaria strongly denied the allegations. Following the shooting, Pope John Paul II forgave Agca saying people should "pray for my brother Agca, whom I have sincerely forgiven."
In 1983, the pontiff met Agca privately at the Italian prison where he was being held. "They had declared brotherhood when the Pope visited him in prison…Would you not be sad if you had lost your other?" Adnan Agca said last year, referring to the pope’s eventual death last year at age 84.
CONTACTS WITH FAMILY
The pontiff also kept contacts with Agca’s family over the years, having met his mother in 1987 and his brother a decade later.
However ordinary citizens reportedly reacted with disgust at the release of the man who became their most infamous countryman. "A murderer like him who has stained Turkey’s image should not be released," Deniz Ergin, a 23-year-old university student in Istanbul, told reporters.
In Vatican City, the family of a then-15-year-old girl who disappeared two years after Agca’s assassination attempt is hoping Agca’s release may shed some light on her whereabouts, The Associated Press (AP) news agency and the American network CBS reported.
KIDNAPPERS DEMAND FULFILLED
Shortly after the June 1983 apparent abduction of Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican messenger, a message was received – purportedly from the kidnappers – who demanded that Agca be freed.
That never happened, and to this day, no one knows what happened to Orlandi. Her family is now asking that the case be re-opened on the grounds that "new elements" have emerged warranting investigation, news reports said.
Turkish people have also expressed concern over a court decision to release the gunman on parole after serving 4 1/2 years in prison for killing left-wing columnist, Abdi Ipekci, in 1979.
"Agca is not just the murderer of my father … I see him as our national assassin," Ipekci’s daughter, Nukhet, said in a letter published on the front page of his newspaper, Milliyet. "He is a person who has caused the words ‘Turkish’ and ‘murder’ to come together," she reportedly wrote.
Agca is not a free man yet, reported Turkish media. As a draft-dodger, he was expected to be immediately enlisted by the Turkish military for obligatory military service, Anatolian news agency said this week. (With BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos and reports from Turkey).