A court decided to free Mehmet Ali Agca, 48, on parole, saying he had completed his prison term in Turkey.

Agca was extradited to Turkey in 2000 after serving almost 20 years in prison in Italy for shooting and wounding the Pope in St. Peter's Square in Rome in 1981.

Agca's lawyer Mustafa Demirbag said: "He says, 'I want to extend the hand of peace and friendship to everyone. I want to engage a struggle for democracy and culture'."


"Agca has received no special treatment, he is just benefiting from current laws," he said.

John Paul, who died last April, met with Agca in Italy's Rebibbia prison in 1983 and forgave him for the shooting.

The motive for the attack remains unclear.

In touch

Demirbag said his client was relishing the prospect of freedom after some 25 years in prison.

"He is a kind of man who has never lost contact with the outside world. His body was inside but his brain was outside."

However, he said it was still not clear whether Agca, a draft-dodger, would be enlisted by the military or face charges for evading the military and escaping a military prison in 1979. The military generally accepts conscripts until 41.

"He will go to the military if it is required," the lawyer said.

Demirbag suggested that because his client had been in prison for a long time, he might be spared the obligatory military service if he is determined unsuitable for service.

On Wednesday, he said: "I think Agca is sane but of course, the doctors would decide on that."

Agca has been known in the past for frequent outbursts and claims that he was the Messiah.

Demirbag, explaining the court's decision to release Agca, said he received a life sentence, which amounts to 36 years under Turkish law, for murdering Turkish journalist Abdi Ipekci in 1979.

Agca served less than six months of that sentence before he escaped, resurfacing in 1981 in Rome. An amnesty later deducted 10 more years from his time, leaving some 25½ years to be served, he said.