Bulgaria Urged to Sue Ali Agca, Italy to Clear Its Name

Crime | January 18, 2010, Monday // 17:21|  views

Mehmet Ali Agca (C), the man who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981, is surrounded by journalists as he walks inside of a hotel after he was released from Ankara Sincan prison in Ankara, Turkey on 18 January 2010. Photo by EPA/BGNES

Calls for taking Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca to court has been given a new boost in Bulgaria after his release from prison in a bid to dismiss any suspicion of the country's involvement in the pope assassination attempt.

"The Bulgarian state should have taken this issue to court long ago," prominent Bulgarian journalist Velislava Dareva said in an interview for BGNES news agency.

"Suing Ali Agca is one, but not the only option for Bulgaria to clear its name, still this can be done only in court. The truth is that the Bulgarian state, not only before the collapse of the communist regime in 1989, but also after that, does not want to bother with this case," Dareva explained.

Agca, who shot John Paul in St. Peter's Square on May 13, 1981, alleged he had been commissioned to do so by the Bulgarian secret service acting on the orders of the Soviet KGB, which feared the pontiff would encourage anti-communist revolt.

Three Turks and three Bulgarians charged with conspiring with Agca were acquitted by an Italian court for lack of evidence.

Bulgarian Sergei Antonov, who was arrested after the shooting and held for more than three years in Italy, was acquitted over lack of evidence. At the time of the arrest Antonov was 32 and worked as a former manager in the Rome office of Balkan Air.

Shattered and physically damaged, he returned to Bulgaria unable to carry on a conversation or concentrate on complex tasks, symptoms his friends say came from the use of psychotropic drugs in his interrogation.

During his visit to Bulgaria in May 2002, Pope John Paul II said that he did not believe claims that Bulgaria was linked to a 1981 attempt to assassinate him, rejecting years of speculation that the Balkan state had worked with Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca in a communist conspiracy.

Still the alleged Bulgarian link was never conclusively put to rest and still attracts conspiracy theorists.

“How long did the world remember the words of Pope John Paul II, who cleared Bulgaria?,” Dareva rhetorically asked. “The Bulgarian state should bring to justice the Italian security services, who forged documents and concealed others, which proved Antonov and the Bulgarian state are innocent.”

“The Italian justice should clearly say that neither Sergei Antonov and nor the Bulgarian state or any Bulgarian institution have played a role in this assassination plot. The Bulgarian connection should be wiped out forever.”

Commenting the series of rambling letters from prison, through which Agca has fed suggestions he is mentally disturbed, Dareva described him as “a sly liar, playing the fool,” “a Turkish terrorist” and “a dangerous megalomaniac.”

The journalist did not rule out the possible resuscitation of the “Bulgarian connection” now that Agca has vowed to reveal the truth about it and the role that Soviet and Bulgarian secret services allegedly played in the plot.

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Tags: Mehmet Ali Agca, Pope John Paul II, Turkish jail, release, Sergei Antonov


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