- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2006

ROME — An Italian parliamentary commission concluded “beyond any reasonable doubt” that the Soviet Union was behind the 1981 attempt to kill Pope John Paul II — a theory long proffered but never proved, according to a draft report made available yesterday.

The commission held that the pope was a danger to the Soviet bloc because of his support for the Solidarity labor movement in his native Poland. Solidarity was the first free trade union in communist Eastern Europe.

“This commission believes, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the leaders of the Soviet Union took the initiative to eliminate the pope Karol Wojtyla,” said a draft of the commission’s report obtained by the Associated Press. Wojtyla was John Paul’s Polish surname.

Russia’s military intelligence service called the charges “absolutely absurd,” Agence France-Presse reported from Moscow.

“All affirmations about any involvement of Soviet intelligence services, including the military secret service, in the attempted assassination of the pope are absolutely absurd and have nothing to do with reality,” the Interfax news agency quoted an intelligence spokesman as saying.

The panel’s draft has no bearing on any judicial investigations, which long have been closed. If the commission approves the report in its final form, that would mark the first time an official body had blamed the Soviet Union for shooting John Paul.

The report also said a photograph shows that a Bulgarian man, who was acquitted of involvement in the May 13, 1981, assassination attempt, was in St. Peter’s Square when the pontiff was shot by Mehmet Ali Agca.

The Bulgarian secret service was working for Soviet military intelligence, but the Italian court held that the evidence was insufficient to convict the Bulgarians in the plot.

Agca, a Turk, has changed his story often, and investigators said it was never clear for whom he was working. He initially blamed the Soviets.

Agca served 19 years in an Italian prison for shooting the pope and then 51/2 years in Turkey for killing journalist Abdi Ipekci.

He was released from a Turkish prison Jan. 12 but returned days later when prosecutors said he must serve more of his 10-year term for killing Mr. Ipekci. Agca will be released in 2010.

The Italian commission originally was established to investigate any penetration by the Soviet intelligence agency KGB of Italy during the Cold War.

The commission president, Sen. Paolo Guzzanti, said he decided to investigate the 1981 shooting after John Paul said in his book “Memory and Identity: Conversations Between Millenniums” that “someone else planned it, someone else commissioned it.” The book came out shortly before the pope’s death last year.

The report said the commission used all the evidence gathered during trials in Italy as well as information given by French anti-terrorism Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere.

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