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Man Who Shot the Pope Found Unfit for Military

January 17, 2006|From Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey — A military hospital pronounced the Turk who shot Pope John Paul II unfit for military service, ending days of speculation over whether 48-year-old Mehmet Ali Agca would be forced to serve.

Agca hid behind a beret as he entered the grounds of the military hospital in a car, his first public appearance since he vanished after his release from a high-security prison last week.

His lawyer, Mustafa Demirbag, told private NTV television that Agca did not undergo any medical examination and that the hospital pronounced him unfit for military service because he had served more than five years of "heavy" prison time.

Details of the decision were not available. But there have been long-standing questions about the mental health of Agca, who has been known for frequent outbursts and claims that he was the messiah.

When he left the hospital, Agca slipped away again in a speeding car. A few vehicles carrying journalists had minor accidents as they tried to follow him.

Demirbag said his client was a "free man" and was hoping to meet with President Bush.

Agca still faces the threat of returning to prison amid questions over whether he served enough time for killing a Turkish journalist.

Agca evaded mandatory army service in 1980, a year after escaping from a military prison, where he was sent for killing journalist Abdi Ipekci in 1979.

He served about 19 years in a prison in Italy after he wounded the pope May 13, 1981, in St. Peter's Square. In June 2000, he was extradited to Turkey, where he served 5 1/2 years on a conviction for murdering Ipekci.

Facing public outrage in Turkey over Agca's release, Justice Minister Cemil Cicek ordered a review of the decision to see whether there were any legal flaws.

Cicek later suggested Agca might have to serve at least 11 more months in Turkey for his crimes here.

Agca will remain free until the court reviews the case.

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