18 April 2014, Friday
Today's Zaman

Ağca may be conscripted into military service after release

18 January 2010, Monday /TODAY'S ZAMAN WITH WIRES
Mehmet Ali Ağca, the gunman who shot and wounded Pope John Paul II and killed Turkish journalist Abdi İpekçi, is set to be released from prison today and will undergo a physical examination at the Gülhane Military Academy of Medicine (GATA) to assess his fitness for military service.

A military hospital had ruled in 2006 that he was not fit for mandatory military service due to “severe anti-social personality disorder,” but authorities said that report had never been approved and is not valid, lawyer Hacı Ali Özhan said on Sunday. A Turkish law allows individuals who spend many years in prison to declare themselves ineligible for military service.

“The health department of the Defense Ministry did not accept my client’s report, which says Ağca is not in good enough condition to serve in the military,” Özhan told reporters.

Ağca spent 19 years in an Italian prison for the 1981 attack on the pope and is nearing the end of a 10-year Turkish sentence for killing İpekçi in 1979.

The gunman received a medical report from GATA that stated that Ağca was not eligible for military service in 2006. The report was, however, found unsound by the Defense Ministry’s health department. Özhan expressed concern about Ağca’s security. He said he had formally objected to the decision to take his client to a military facility and possibly to a military hospital for medical examinations, arguing that the 2006 report was valid. “Ağca is shocked and disappointed that he might be conscripted into military service,” Özhan said. “He says it is against his religious and philosophical beliefs to bear arms. There will also be difficulties in protecting Mehmet Ali Ağca’s life where thousands of people carry weapons.”

Ağca was released from prison in 2006, but was later re-arrested and put in jail on grounds that he did not complete his full term in prison. Asked whether his client may face a similar situation again, Özhan said, “Such a crisis would spark a questioning of the Turkish judiciary.”

The lawyer also denied claims that Ağca had links to Ergenekon, a criminal terrorist organization accused of working to overthrow the government.

Little is known about what led Ağca to shoot at the pope while he was greeting the faithful in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981, but he has said that foreign powers had conspired to have the Polish-born pontiff killed. When Ağca was arrested minutes after the attack, he declared he had acted alone. Later, he suggested Bulgaria and the Soviet Union’s KGB were behind the attack, but then backed off that line. His contradictory statements have frustrated prosecutors over the decades.

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