18 Jan 2010

Pope's attempted killer freed from prison

9:19 pm on 18 January 2010

The man who shot the late Pope John Paul II in St Peter's Square in 1981 was released from prison in the Turkish capital Ankara on Monday evening nearly 30 years in prison in Italy and Turkey.

Mehmet Ali Agca, then aged 23, opened fire on the pontiff driving to an audience in an open vehicle in St Peter's Square in Rome on 13 May, 1981. John Paul II was seriously wounded in the abdomen.

Agca served 19 years in an Italian prison for the assassination attempt before being pardoned at the Pope's request in 2000. He was then extradited to Turkey to serve time for other crimes.

John Paul II earlier visited him in prison in Rome in 1983.

Deutsche Welle Radio reports mystery still surrounds the shooting and what Agca's motifs were.

He was linked to a Turkish ultra-nationalist group, the Grey Wolves, which carried out a number of killings. He murdered a newspaper editor.

There was speculation that he was used by the Bulgarian secret service to try to kill the pope.