Italy expels pope gunman

Italy expels Mehmet Ali Agca after he placed flowers on tomb of Polish Pope John Paul II, who he tried to assassinate in 1981

Italy expels Mehmet Ali Agca after he placed flowers on tomb of Polish Pope John Paul II, who he tried to assassinate in 1981

ISTANBUL - An assassin who tried to kill Pope John Paul II was expelled Monday from Italy where he went to lay flowers on the pontiff’s tomb.

He was expected to arrive in Istanbul on an Alitalia flight early on Tuesday.

Turkish national Mehmet Ali Agca was held by police after he visited St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday where the Polish pope is buried.

A magistrate ordered Agca be expelled as he had entered Italy without a visa, judicial sources said Monday.

Agca told la Repubblica newspaper that he reached Italy through Greece and Austria "with the help of a few friends … Turkish and foreigners, but not Italians."

Agca was a former member of the Turkish ultra far right militant group Gray Wolves. He shot and seriously wounded Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981, and was sentenced to life imprisonment in Italy in July 1981.

He was pardoned by the then-Italian president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, in June 2000, years after Pope John Paul II said he had "sincerely forgiven" him.

Agca separately served 10 years jail time in Turkey for the 1979 murder of left-wing journalist Abdi Ipekci and for two bank raids carried out in the 1970s.

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