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Turkish President vetoes amnesty to Pope attacker

Turkey's president on Friday vetoed an amnesty bill that could have freed the Turkish gunman who shot Pope John Paul II from a Turkish prison 10 years early.

The gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca, spent nearly 20 years in an Italian prison after shooting the pope in 1981. He is now serving 17 years for the 1979 murder of Turkish newspaper editor Abdi Ipekci and the robbery of an Istanbul factory that year.

Parliament approved the amnesty bill on Thursday, but President Ahmet Necdet Sezer said yesterday that it had serious faults.

The sentence reductions would occur regardless of a prisoner's behaviour, he said. Also, the bill passed with a majority but not with 60% of parliament - which Sezer argued was constitutionally necessary for a special amnesty.

Under the amnesty, most convicts would be released 10 years early. The measure would apply to all prisoners except those convicted of terrorism charges or treason.

Due to Sezer's veto, parliament will debate the bill a second time. If it passes again without changes, Sezer would be required to sign, but could ask the Constitutional Court to annul it.

Agca has served two years of his 17 year sentence. Under the amnesty, he would likely serve only five years more, his lawyer Can Sevket Ozbay says.

Italy extradited Agca to Turkey after Rome pardoned him for the 1981 attack in St Peter's Square that wounded the Pope. Agca carried out the shooting after escaping from prison in Turkey, where he was being held for killing Ipekci.


28 Apr 2002