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Man who tried to kill Pope now praying for his ‘brother’

AFP | April 2 2005

ISTANBUL — Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish extremist who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981, is praying for his ailing “brother” from his Istanbul prison cell, his lawyer Mustafa Demirbag said yesterday.

“My client is very sad,” Demirbag said in a telephone interview. “His thoughts are with his brother, the pope, and he is praying for him.”

Agca, 47, was “deeply touched” by news of John Paul II’s rapidly deteriorating health and “wishes him a speedy recovery,” the lawyer said.

Agca was 23 and on the run from the Turkish police when he opened fire on the Pope at Saint Peter’s Square as the pontiff was headed for an audience in an open vehicle. Agca’s motives remain unclear.

The Pope was seriously wounded in the abdomen after the assassination attempt, and Agca spent the next 19 years in Italian prisons before being extradited to Turkey in 2000.

Upon his return to Turkey, Agca, who was forgiven by John Paul II, was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in jail for a bank robbery committed in the 1970s and to life imprisonment for murdering a prominent Turkish journalist. The life sentence was later reduced to 10 years’ imprisonment. — AFP