The man who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II has been freed from prison. Mehmet Ali Agca was driven out of jail in Ankara nearly 30 years after the attempt on the pope’s life in the Vatican.
He served 19 years in an Italian prison before being pardoned and released on the pope’s initiative in 2000. He was then extradited to Turkey to serve jail terms in his home country for crimes including murder.
On May 13th 1981, Agca was in the crowd as John Paul II rode around St Peter’s Square at the start of his weekly audience.
He unleashed a volley of shots, hitting the pontiff several times. The pope was seriously wounded, but narrowly survived after spending weeks in hospital.
Agca was arrested immediately. Two months later he was serving a life sentence.
The motives have never become clear, but an Italian parliamentary committee concluded that the Soviet Union was behind the attack.
At the time, the pope was a strong supporter of the emergent anti-communist Solidarity movement in his home country Poland.