ROME (CNS): Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who shot and seriously wounded Pope John Paul II in 1981, has been released from an Italian prison and extradited to Turkey, where he will serve a sentence for the 1979 killing of a journalist.
Italian President Carlo Ciampi signed a clemency order for Agca on June 13, as Italian justice ministry officials signed the extradition decree.
A few hours later, the 42 year-old Agca, white-haired after more than 19 years in prison, boarded a flight to Turkey. He carried only a bag of books from his Italian prison cell. After landing amid high security in Istanbul, he entered a prison there early on June 14.
After the announcement of his extradition to his native Turkey, Agca said through his lawyer, Maria Magistrelli: “For me, this is truly a dream. I can’t believe it. I say thank you to the Holy Father, thank you to the Vatican, thank you to the president of the republic”.
The Vatican expressed satisfaction at Agca’s pardon and said the Pope was particularly pleased that it had occurred during the Jubilee year.
“For some time, the Pope had communicated to Italian authorities that he was in favour of an act of clemency, whenever it would have been foreseen by the Italian judicial order,” Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement.