Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who tried to kill Pope John Paul in 1981, is due to be released from prison in Turkey on January 18. In a rambling statement issued by his lawyers on Wednesday, he called for a “new American Empire” championing peace and democracy.
Here are some facts about Agca and the enigmatic path that took him from life as a small-time gangster in Turkey to the would-be assassin on St. Peter’s Square.
* Early Days
– Mehmet Ali Agca was born on Jan. 9, 1958 to a poor Turkish family. As a boy, he was involved in petty crime and smuggling between Turkey and Bulgaria. He becomes a member of the militant far-right Grey Wolves group as a teenager. In 1979, he murders Abdi Ipekci, a left-wing journalist. He is sentenced to life in prison but escapes with the help of right-wing comragdes after six months and flees to Bulgaria.
– He roams around several Mediterranean and Balkan countries and arrives in Italy in 1981.