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Last Updated: Friday, 20 January 2006, 23:12 GMT
Turkey ends Pope gunman freedom
Mehmet Ali Agca is taken back into police custody in Istanbul
Mehmet Ali Agca was led into an Istanbul police station in handcuffs
The Turkish gunman who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981 has returned to prison, eight days after being freed.

Turkey's highest appeals court ruled that Mehmet Ali Agca, 48, should serve more time in jail for killing a Turkish journalist in 1979.

There was a public outcry when Agca was released early last week, and the government challenged the decision.

Agca had previously served 19 years in prison in Italy for the attempt on the Pope's life.

Agca shot the Pope in St Peter's Square in 1981, but has never explained why. The pontiff later visited him in jail and publicly forgave him.

Public outcry

Agca was arrested in Istanbul on Friday afternoon and was taken to police headquarters.

Justice Minister Cemil Cicek had argued he should serve a full 10-year term for the 1979 murder of left-wing Turkish journalist Abdi Ipekci, as well as two bank robberies.

Pope John Paul II meets Agca in an Italian jail in 1983

The gunman's release provoked outrage in Turkey.

His lawyer, Mustafa Demirbag, told Turkey's NTV channel that they would respect "all decisions by the independent Turkish court".

Agca was a 23-year-old known criminal with links to Turkish far-right paramilitaries at the time of the attack in Rome.

He fired several times at the late Pope John Paul II as he waved to crowds from an open car.

The critically wounded pontiff underwent emergency surgery for serious wounds to the abdomen and hand. According to his own account, he only just survived.

He met his attacker two years later in an Italian prison, when he publicly forgave him.

There were claims that the Soviet KGB and its Bulgarian counterpart were behind the assassination attempt, but prosecutors at a trial in 1986 failed to prove a link to the Bulgarian secret service.

On a 2002 visit to Sofia, John Paul II said he had never believed in a Bulgarian link to the shooting.

The Russians have always maintained that the KGB was not responsible, even indirectly, for the attempt on the pontiff's life.

John Paul II died in April 2005 at the age of 84.


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