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Pope’s would-be assassin freed from jail

Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who tried to kill pope John Paul II in 1981, has been released from jail after almost three decades behind bars.


“The release procedure has been completed,” Agca’s lawyer Yilmaz Abosoglu told reporters outside a high-security prison near Ankara.

Agca was a 23-year-old militant of the notorious far-right Grey Wolves, on the run from Turkish murder charges, when he resurfaced in St Peter’s Square, Rome, on May 13, 1981 and opened fire on the pope as he drove to an audience in an open vehicle.

John Paul II was seriously wounded in the abdomen and Agca spent the next 19 years in Italian prisons.

He has claimed the attack was part of a divine plan and given often contradictory statements, frequently changing his story and forcing investigators to open dozens of inquiries.

Charges that the Soviet Union and then-communist Bulgaria were behind the assassination attempt were never proved.

Agca claims he is the Messiah

In 2000, Italy pardoned Agca and extradited him to Turkey, where he was convicted for the murder of prominent journalist Abdi Ipekci, two armed robberies and escaping from prison, crimes all dating back to the 1970s.

Abosoglu said the 52-year-old Turk would be taken to an army recruitment office to sort out procedures concerning his status as a draft dodger.

Gokay Gultekin, another of his lawyers, insisted Agca was not fit for obligatory military service because of “severe anti-social personality disorder”.

There have been long-standing questions about his mental health based on his frequent outbursts and claims that he was the Messiah.

In a statement distributed by his lawyer outside the prison in Sincan, he raved again: “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.”