File photo of Pope John Paul II talking with Turkish gunman Agca in a cell of Rome's Rebibbia prison
Vatican via Reuters file
Pope John Paul II talks with Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca in a cell of Rome's Rebibbia prison on Dec. 2, 1983.
updated 1/12/2006 8:12:19 AM ET 2006-01-12T13:12:19

The Turkish gunman who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981 wants to put the assassination attempt behind him after his release from prison this week and work for world peace, his lawyer told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday.

"He says, 'I want to extend the hand of peace and friendship to everyone. I want to engage a struggle for democracy and culture,"' Mustafa Demirbag, the lawyer for Mehmet Ali Agca, told AP in his office ahead of Agca's scheduled Thursday release.

A Turkish court last week decided to free the 48-year-old gunman on parole, saying he had completed his prison term in Turkey.

Agca was extradited to Turkey in 2000 after serving almost 20 years in prison in Italy for shooting and wounding the pope in St. Peter's Square in Rome on May 13, 1981.

"Agca has received no special treatment, he is just benefiting from current laws," Demirbag said.

John Paul, who died last April, met with Agca in Italy's Rebibbia prison in 1983 and forgave him for the shooting. The motive for the attack remains unclear.

Demirbag, explaining the court decision, said Agca received a life sentence, which amounts to 36 years under Turkish law, for murdering Turkish journalist Abdi Ipekci in 1979.

Agca served less than six months of that sentence before he escaped, resurfacing in 1981 in Rome. An amnesty later took 10 more years of his time, leaving some 25 1/2 years to be served, he said.

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