Ali Agca Could Be Out of Prison in 6 Years

Turkish Amnesty Aims to Ease Prison Crowding

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ANKARA, Turkey, JULY 20, 2001 ( The Turk who shot John Paul II may see his prison term for a 1979 murder reduced from 17 to seven years, under a broadened amnesty for prisoners, his lawyer said.

Turkey´s High Court ruled this week that prisoners already serving reduced sentences may also benefit from a prison amnesty bill that came into effect last year. The amnesty reduces sentences by 10 years.

Mehmet Ali Agca, pardoned by Italy after nearly 20 years in prison for the 1981 attack on the Pope, is now serving 10 years for the 1979 murder of a newspaper editor in Turkey, and an additional seven years for robbing an Istanbul soda factory the same year.

His lawyer, Can Sevket Ozbay, said Agca would qualify for the amnesty and would have his sentence reduced by 10 years. He has served one year of his sentence, and would remain in prison an additional six years.

«The Constitutional Court decisions are binding, Agca qualifies,» Ozbay said.

Authorities must review each prisoner´s case, however, and reports said relatives of the editor would appeal against Agca´s early release.

Italy extradited Agca to Turkey last year, after pardoning him for the attack in St. Peter´s Square, which left the Pope gravely wounded.

Agca shot the Pope after escaping from a Turkish prison, where he was being held in the editor´s killing. Turkey later convicted him in absentia and sentenced him to death. A 1991 amnesty reduced that sentence to 10 years in prison.

Turkey has introduced dozens of prisoner amnesties over the years to help ease conditions in tense, overcrowded prisons. According to Amnesty International, Turkey is one of the countries where human rights are most violated.

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