Sun, Jan 22, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Turkey ends brief spell of freedom for Agca

BACK INSIDE After his release last week, Mehmet Ali Agca was returned to prison yesterday to serve more time for the murder of Turkish journalist Abdi Ipecki in 1979


The Turkish man who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981 returned to prison after an appeals court ruled that he should serve more time for the killing of a Turkish journalist and other crimes.

Mehmet Ali Agca did not resist arrest on Friday when police knocked on his Istanbul apartment door following the court's ruling.

"I was waiting for you," he told the officers, according to private NTV television.

He was driven to Kartal prison, the same Istanbul lockup that he was released from eight days ago. He is expected to serve several more years.

The panel of appeals court judges overturned a lower court's ruling that set Agca free on Jan. 12. He had served 19 years in an Italian prison for the attack on the pope and then another five and a half years of a 10-year sentence in Turkey for murdering journalist Abdi Ipekci in 1979.

In ordering his release, the lower court counted the time served in Italy and said Agca had fulfilled his sentence, outraging many Turks.

Justice Minister Cemil Cicek asked the court to review the case, and the judges ruled unanimously on Friday that Agca go back to prison and serve more time.

"There is no legal basis to deduct Agca's time in Italy from his prison terms he received in Turkey," the court said.

Before being taken back to prison, Agca was brought to police headquarters in Istanbul, where he was seen handcuffed and yelling in English, Turkish and Italian.

"I declare myself Messiah. I am not the son of God, I am Messiah," shouted Agca, who is known for such outbursts.

Earlier, Agca's lawyer, Mustafa Demirbag, said: "We're respectful of all decisions by Turkish courts."

After his client's detention, he said, "The media won, the law lost."

A local prosecutor was to decide on how many more years Agca should serve. Reports have suggested he could be imprisoned until 2014.

Cicek had argued that Agca should serve a full 10-year sentence for killing Ipekci. He suggested the sentence should be counted from June 14, 2000, when Agca was extradited to Turkey from Italy.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Justice Ministry had "fulfilled its responsibility."

When Agca was released on Jan. 12, he vanished from the public eye, although authorities said they had intelligence about his whereabouts.

He appeared in public on Monday when he reported to a military hospital, but then slipped away again when he left the hospital.

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