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Friday, January 20, 2006

Agca Must Return To Prison

Istanbul, Jan. 20 ( - Mehmet Ali Agca, the would-be papal assassin, must return to prison, the Supreme Court of Turkey has ruled.

Just over one week after Agca was released on parole, the high court overturned the ruling of a lower court, which had said that Agca had completed the required sentence for the murder of journalist Abdi Ipekci. Agca had been convicted of that killing in 1979, and sentenced to a 10-year jail term. He escaped after less than 6 months, and was still wanted by Turkish authorities when he was arrested in May 1981 for shooting Pope John Paul II.

Agca was sentenced to life imprisonment by an Italian court for the attempted assassination of the Pope. But he was pardoned in 2000 by Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, who was acting with the tacit support of Pope John Paul after the Pontiff had encouraged gestures of pardon for prisoners as part of the celebration of the Jubilee Year 2000. Upon his release from Italian prison, the Turkish gunman was handed over to authorities in his own country, to resume serving his prison term for the earlier Ipekci slaying. Since his return to Turkey, Agca has seen several judicial decisions reducing the length of his required stay in prison. On January 8 a Turkish tribunal announced that Agca-- who marks his 48th birthday today, January 9-- had completed his required prison sentence. But the country's justice department appealed that verdict, and on January 20 the Supreme Court sided with the prosecutors.

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