Mehmet Ali Agca, Man Who Shot Pope, to Be Freed

Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who tried to assassinate the late Pope John Paul II, has been released from prison and will be drafted into the army, according to the AP.

A court has approved the release from prison the man who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981, saying he completed his sentence for crimes he committed in Turkey, the semiofficial Anatolia news agency reported Sunday. Mehmet Ali Agca was extradited to Turkey in 2000 after serving almost 20 years in Italy for shooting and wounding the pope in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. His motive for the attack remains unclear.

Agca, 47, was expected to be released as early as Monday. Anatolia said he was expected to be immediately enlisted by the military for obligatory service because he had dodged the draft, Anatolia said. Turkish paramilitary police were expected to take Agca first to a local military station and then to a military hospital in Istanbul for medical check, a routine procedure. His lawyer and family said they were not aware of the court decision. “I’m surprised,” his lawyer, Dogan Yildirim, told The Associated Press by telephone. “If its true, justice will finally be served. He has been in prison for so long.” Agca’s sister, Fatma Agca, also was surprised. “We did not hear it,” Fatma Agca told the AP from the family home in the southeastern city of Malatya.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the Vatican would defer to the judgement of the Turkish tribunal. “The Holy See has learned only from news agencies of the news of the possible freedom of Ali Agca,” he said in a brief statement. “The Holy See, before a problem of a judicial nature, submits to the decisions of the tribunals involved in this matter.”

Upon his return to Turkey from Italy, Agca immediately was sent to prison to serve a 10-year sentence for murdering Turkish journalist Abdi Ipekci in 1979. He was separately sentenced to seven years and four months for two robberies in Turkey the same year. An Istanbul court ruled in 2004 that Agca should only serve the longest sentence — his conviction for killing Ipekci. That 10-year sentence was changed twice because of new Turkish laws.

Quite a bizarre spectacle all around. Why a NATO military would want a 47-year-old psychopath is not particularly clear.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. spacemonkey says:

    Yeah, he’s too good of a killer for NATO forces.