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Pope shooter killed leftist newspaper editor { January 20 2006 }

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Pope gunman ordered back to jail
Friday, January 20, 2006 Posted: 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)

ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- The man who attempted to kill Pope John Paul II nearly 25 years ago has been rearrested after Turkey's Supreme Court ruled his release from prison last week was a legal mistake.

Mehmet Ali Agca spent 19 years in an Italian prison for the pope's shooting before he was pardoned in 2000 by Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. He also spent five years in a Turkish prison for the 1979 murder of a left-wing newspaper editor.

Last week, a lower court allowed for his release because under Turkish law Agca's time in prison in Italy counted as time served for the murder of the journalist, Abdi Ipekci. His release caused outrage among some in Turkey.

The Supreme Court on Friday overturned that ruling and Agca was taken into custody in Istanbul. He was expected to be taken to jail later in the day.

If he is forced to complete his sentence, he could be in jail until 2010, legal experts said.

Agca was also convicted of robbing a factory and stealing a vehicle in 1979 -- and could even serve another four years for those crimes.

He served five months for killing Ipekci before escaping a military prison in 1979.

Although a military court had ordered Agca's execution for killing Ipekci, a 1991 amnesty commuted that sentence to 10 years. He later benefited from a second amnesty in 2000, which deducted 10 years from his time.

In its ruling Friday, the appeals court said Agca could benefit only from the 1991 amnesty.

"We're respectful of all decisions by Turkish courts," Agca's lawyer, Mustafa Demirbag, told private NTV television earlier Friday.

In the first government comment on the ruling, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said: "The justice ministry did its duty. After this it is down to the legal process."

John Paul II was critically wounded in the May 13, 1981, shooting, which occurred as he rode in an open car across St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.

Agca shot the pontiff point-blank, striking him in the abdomen, left hand and right arm. He was captured immediately.

Doctors were able to save John Paul II's life largely because Agca's bullets missed his vital organs. The pope publicly forgave his would-be assassin three days after the shooting and later met Agca in prison.

John Paul II died April 2 at age 84. He was replaced by Pope Benedict XVI.

His release from prison on January 12 prompted little Vatican comment. Spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said merely that the Holy See supported "the decisions of the courts involved in this matter."

Before his arrest, Agca had said he would speak about the assassination attempt if paid to do so. He was reported to be entertaining offers of up to $1 million.

Agca vanished from the public eye after his release from prison, but authorities said they had intelligence about his whereabouts. He appeared in public Monday at a military hospital, but later slipped away again, AP said.

Over the years Agca has given various reasons for the assassination attempt.

At his trial in Italy, he claimed to be a reincarnation of Jesus and said the shooting was a fulfilment of a prophecy the Virgin Mary told children at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917.

Fourteen years after the trial, the Vatican said the Virgin had indeed made such a prophecy, according to Reuters.

Prosecutors did not prove charges that Bulgaria's Communist-era secret services had hired Agca to kill the pope on behalf of the Soviet Union.

Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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