Supporters Throw Flowers at the Man Who Shot Pope John Paul II

Mehmet Ali Agca is released from prison in Turkey today,

Agca says he may write a new bible and has compared himself to Jesus.

Supporters of Mehmet Ali Agca follow his car with a Turkish flag after the Turkish gunman who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981 left a military recruitment center after being released from prison in Istanbul, Turkey, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2006. Agca was serving more than 25 years behind bars in Italy and Turkey for the plot against the pontiff and the slaying of a Turkish journalist. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

Supporters throw flowers at the car of Mehmet Ali Agca as he left the prison where he has lived the last five years in Turkey:

Agca’s car was hailed by hundreds of Turkish nationalists and strewn with flowers as he departed from the high-security Kartal prison outside Istanbul Thursday morning. The 48-year-old spent nearly five years incarcerated there after 20 years in Italian custody. On May 13, 1981, the Turk was apprehended immediately after he shot John Paul II three times as the pope rode in an open car in St. Peter’s Square, in Rome. The motive for the attempt on the pontiff’s life remains shrouded in mystery.

There’s been considerable speculation about a Communist-backed plot to eliminate the Polish pope, who was considered a threat to Soviet dominance in eastern Europe in the early 1980s. But a 1986 trial failed to prove that Bulgarian secret services had hired Agca to kill the John Paul on behalf of the Soviet Union. Three Turks and three Bulgarians charged with conspiring with Agca were never convicted, due to lack of evidence.

Agca, deemed fit stand trial, has always seemed unsteady. He’s frequently likened himself to Jesus. Apparently now he wants to write a “new Bible” and work for peace after gaining his freedom.

A militant right-wing nationalist in his youth, Agca’s Turkish prison term was for a separate crime, the 1979 slaying of a left-wing newspaper columnist named Abdi Ipekci.

Agca became a potent symbol for Turkish nationalist during his time in jail and a crowd was on hand to celebrate his early parole. “He is a family friend. We love him,” Mustafa Akmercan, one of two Turks who hijacked an Air Malta jetliner in 1997 to demand Agca’s release, told The Associated Press outside the prison. “We’re very happy.”

The family of Emanuela Orlandi who disappeared in 1983 hopes that Agca’s release will shed light on her disappearance:

In Vatican City, the family of a then-15-year-old girl who disappeared two years after Agca’s assassination attempt is hoping Agca’s release may shed some light on her whereabouts.

Shortly after the June 1983 apparent abduction of Emanuela Orlandi, the daugher of a Vatican messenger, a message was received – purportedly from the kidnappers – who demanded that Agca be freed.

That never happened, and to this day, no one knows what happened to Orlandi.

Her family is now asking that the case be re-opened on the grounds that “new elements” have emerged warranting investigation.

Many Turks were surprised and outraged at last week’s court decision releasing the gunman on parole after serving 4 1/2 years in prison for killing a left-wing columnist, Abdi Ipekci, in 1979.

In his latest pronouncement, published yesterday in the Turkish Vatan newspaper, he said he was “the first universal spokesman of God”.

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