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Agca goes free

VATICAN CITY (CNS): The Turkish terrorist who shot and seriously wounded Pope John Paul II in a failed 1981 assassination attempt was scheduled to be freed on parole from a Turkish prison on January 12.

Since his extradition from Italy to Turkey in 2000, Mehmet Ali Agca served five years of a 10-year sentence for the 1979 murder of a Turkish journalist and two robberies the same year.

But a Turkish court said Agca had completed his prison term and could be released, according to reports by the country’s semi-official Anatolia news agency.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, commenting on “the news of the possible freedom of Ali Agca” in a press release on January 8, said the decision to release Agca should be up to the Turkish courts.

Agca, 48, had served 19 years in an Italian prison for his May 13, 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul in St Peter’s Square.

President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Renato Martino, said his council did not want to interfere with the Turkish court’s decision that determined Agca had “paid his debt to justice”.

Pope John Paul’s former secretary, Polish Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, said the late pope “would have celebrated” upon hearing the news of Agca’s scheduled release from prison.

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