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Man Who Shot Pope to be Released Tuesday


The lawyer for the Turkish man who tried to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981, says his client is to be released Tuesday from a Turkish prison. Mehmet Ali Agca had been held in Italy until he was extradited to Turkey in 2000.

The man who shocked the world when he shot Pope John Paul II in broad daylight in Saint Peter's Square nearly 25 years ago will be allowed to leave an Istanbul prison. His lawyer says he will be released on parole Tuesday.

Lawyer Mustafa Demirbag said Agca will go directly to a military post to begin military service, as required by Turkish law, after being released from jail. The length of his service is yet to be determined.

Mehmet Ali Agca is now 47 years old. He was just 23 when he tried to kill the pope. Pope John Paul was waving at the crowds from his open-topped car when he was hit by several gunshots. The gunman was arrested moments after the shooting.

The pope was rushed to a hospital where he underwent surgery for wounds to his abdomen, left hand and right arm. He survived because no vital organ had been hit.

A trial was held in Rome under the eyes of the world, but it failed to reveal the true motive for the attempt on the pope's life and whether Agca acted alone or with others. The mystery lives on to this day.

Two years after the incident, Pope John Paul personally pardoned the Turkish gunman during a private meeting with him in a Rome prison. The Italian authorities pardoned him many years later and extradited him to Turkey in 2000.

At the Vatican Monday the news was received with little reaction.

Spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls said the Vatican learned of the plans to free Agca from news reports and had not received any information prior to the announcement. He added that judicial authorities are dealing with the matter and the Vatican supports the decisions that are taken by the courts involved.

Observers are hoping that with the release of Agca, new information will emerge on what prompted the assassination attempt. But one Italian magistrate said Agca will have to be careful and warned that his life may be at risk because of the secrets he carries with him.

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