- The Washington Times - Friday, January 20, 2006

ANKARA, Turkey — Police took the man who shot Pope John Paul II back into custody yesterday after an appeals court ordered him to return to prison to serve more time for killing a journalist and for other crimes in Turkey.

Mehmet Ali Agca did not resist and was being taken to police headquarters in Istanbul, eight days after he was released from prison, said Gov. Muammer Guler.

Agca served 19 years in prison in Italy for shooting the pope on May 13, 1981, and 51/2 years of a 10-year sentence in Turkey for the murder of journalist Abdi Ipekci in 1979.

In a decision that outraged many Turks, a local court had ordered his release from an Istanbul prison on Jan. 12, counting his time served in Italy as part of his sentence. Yesterday’s ruling overturned that decision, saying there “is no legal basis” for deducting Agca’s time served in Italy from his Turkish sentence.

It was up to the local court to decide how many more years Agca, 48, would have to serve. Reports suggested he could be imprisoned until 2014.

“We’re respectful of all decisions by Turkish courts,” Agca’s lawyer, Mustafa Demirbag, told private NTV television earlier yesterday.

The anger over Agca’s release came at a delicate time for Turkey, which aspires to membership in the European Union. Next week, the EU is to begin screening the country’s justice system.

“There was certainly quite a lot of public outcry in Turkey itself, and a state of unhappiness in general about the legal system,” said political analyst Ilter Turan. “There was a general expectation that he [Agca] would be called back to jail.”

Responding to the criticism, Justice Minister Cemil Cicek earlier this week had asked the appeals court to annul Agca’s release, arguing he should serve a full 10-year sentence from June 14, 2000, when he was extradited to Turkey for killing Mr. Ipekci.

Agca also had been convicted of robbing a factory and commandeering a vehicle in 1979 — and could also separately serve four years for those crimes.

He already had served five months for killing Mr. Ipekci before escaping a military prison in 1979.

Although a military court had ordered Agca’s execution for killing Mr. Ipekci, a 1991 amnesty commuted that sentence to 10 years. He later benefited from a second amnesty in 2000, which deducted 10 years from his time.

In its ruling yesterday, the appeals court said Agca could benefit only from the 1991 amnesty.

Agca shot John Paul as the pope rode in an open car in St. Peter’s Square and was captured immediately. The pontiff was hit in the abdomen, left hand and right arm, but recovered because the bullets missed his vital organs.

John Paul later visited Agca in prison in 1983 and forgave him.

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