Image: Mehmet Ali Agca.
Murad Sezer  /  AP file
Mehmet Ali Agca, the gunman who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981, is escorted into court in Istanbul, Turkey, in this photo from 2000.
updated 4/4/2005 1:56:27 PM ET 2005-04-04T17:56:27

Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot and seriously wounded Pope John Paul II in 1981, said from his Turkish prison Monday that he was mourning the death of his “spiritual brother” and wanted to attend his funeral.

Agca’s lawyer Mustafa Demirag said he would put the request to prosecutors Tuesday but admitted there was little chance Turkey would allow a maximum-security prisoner to attend the funeral of a man whom he had shot.

“We don’t have much hope,” Demirag said.

In a written statement in Italian faxed to The Associated Press through his lawyers, Agca repeated his claim that he was the messiah and that he was writing “the true perfect bible.” He signed off the letter: “Mehmet Ali Agca, the messiah servant.” The wording of the letter suggested once more that Agca may be unstable.

“I participate in the mourning of my Christian Catholic people,” Agca said in the letter in which he referred to the pope as “my spiritual brother.”

Extradited to Turkey in 2000
Demirag said he met with Agca on Monday morning in his cell in Istanbul’s Kartal prison. He quoted Agca as saying: “I must be there. I must attend the funeral. If I can’t go, then someone from my family should go.”

The pope, who died Saturday, met with Agca in an Italian prison in 1983 and forgave him for the shooting. The pontiff had also received Agca’s relatives several times in recent years, meeting his mother in 1987 and his brother in 1997.

Agca was extradited to Turkey in 2000 after almost 20 years behind bars in Italy. He is serving a 17-year prison sentence in Istanbul for earlier crimes in Turkey.

Agca has given conflicting reasons for his 1981 assassination attempt and has sometimes suggested his actions were part of God’s plan.

“The divine plan has come to its conclusion,” Agca said in his handwritten letter.

Despite denials by former Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, suspicions linger that the Turk acted on behalf of the former Soviet bloc, which feared that the Polish-born pope would help trigger anti-communist revolts.

The pope has long said he believed the hand of the Virgin Mary deflected Agca’s bullet.

Agca is serving a 10-year prison sentence for the 1979 murder of a prominent Turkish newspaper editor and an additional seven years for commandeering a taxi and an Istanbul robbery.

Agca’s attorneys claim he could be released from jail as early as this year because of recent changes to Turkish law, although it was unclear whether authorities would agree to free him.

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