Pope attacker asks to attend funeral

The lawyer for Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish man who shot and seriously wounded Pope John Paul II, has requested permission for his client to leave prison to attend the pontiff's funeral.

    The Pope forgave Agca for the shooting carried out in 1981

    Lawyer Mustafa Demirag on Tuesday said he was seeking permission under a Turkish law that allows 72 hours leave to prisoners who have served a quarter of their term and have shown "good behaviour".

     

    He submitted the letter to a local prosecutors' office.

     

    Demirag, however, acknowledged earlier that there was little chance that Agca, who shot the Pope in a 1981 assassination attempt and earlier killed a top Turkish

    newspaper editor, would be allowed to leave prison.

     

    The Pope met Agca in an Italian prison in 1983 and forgave him for the shooting.

     

    Extradition

     

    Agca was extradited to Turkey in 2000 after almost 20 years behind bars in Italy. He is currently serving a 17-year prison sentence in Istanbul for earlier crimes in Turkey.

     

    "I expect the Turkish government will understand the vital importance of the issue and will urgently give its consent"

    Mehmet Ali Agca

    In a separate handwritten letter to the prosecutor, dated 4 April, Agca said he was seeking permission to fly to Rome in a private jet, accompanied by Interpol police officers.

     

    "I believe that the Vatican and Italian governments will agree to my request," the letter said.

     

    "I expect the Turkish government will understand the vital importance of the issue and will urgently give its consent," it said.

     

    Demirag said he was hoping to get a reply later on Tuesday.

     

    Demirag met with Agca in his cell in Istanbul's Kartal prison on Monday and quoted Agca as saying: "I must be there. I must attend the funeral. If I can't go, then

    someone from my family should go."

    SOURCE: Unspecified


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