Vatican City experienced a moment of terror on May 13, 1981, when Mehmet Ali Agca fired multiple shots at Pope John Paul II while the latter drove through St. Peter’s Square in a motorcade. The attack was soon accredited to the Turkish Militant Organization Grey Wolves, and Agca was arrested on the spot. Interestingly, Agca and the assassination attempt were pushed into the spotlight again when Emanuela Orlandi went missing on June 22, 1983.
Netflix’s ‘Vatican Girl: The Disappearance Of Emanuela Orlandi’ chronicles the disappearance in detail and shows how the case seemed connected with Agca. Well, with people curious to know more, let’s find out where Mehmet Ali Agca is at present, shall we?
Who Is Mehmet Ali Agca?
Agca was born on January 9, 1958, in the Malatya Province of Turkey and grew up alongside at least one other sibling. Although he had a pretty good relationship with his family, reports stated that Agca was involved in petty crime from a young age. Nevertheless, petty crime soon gave way to bigger issues as Agca insisted that he was trained in terrorism and weaponry as he belonged to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a claim the group has refuted.
Nevertheless, it is said that the Turkish national became an expert at handling firearms before joining the Turkish far-right and militant organization Grey Wolves. While working for the Grey Wolves, Agca was sent out on several missions, the most important of which was the assassination of journalist and editor Abdi İpekçi. Abdi, who worked for the newspaper Milliyet, was an open and loud critic of extremism and militancy. Abdi’s criticism put his life in danger, and the Grey Wolves tasked Agca, as well as his co-conspirator, Oral Çelik, with carrying out the murder.
On February 1, 1979, Abdi was driving back from the Milliyet office when Agca and Çelik ambushed him in front of his apartment before shooting the reporter in cold blood. Although Çelik escaped, reports say that an informant identified Agca, which led to his arrest and life imprisonment in the same year. However, the Grey Wolves had other plans as Agca soon managed to break out of prison with inside help and escaped to Bulgaria.
In Bulgaria, Agca began conspiring against pope John Paul II as the latter was about to visit Turkey. He even put out an open death threat against the Pope in 1979 and planned to assassinate him in 1980. Sources claim that Oral Çelik also accompanied him on this mission, and on May 13, 1981, the Turkish assassin waited for the Pope to pass by St. Peter’s Square. Once Pope John Paul II appeared in his vehicle, Agca fired multiple shots at him, four of which hit the Pope, injuring him. Later, Agca mentioned that he felt the gun jam after four shots.
Although Agca tried to escape after throwing it away, a few onlookers as well as Vatican authorities managed to apprehend him. Following the attempt, Agca was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to life in prison in July of the same year. When Emanuela Orlandi went missing on June 22, 1983, a man, later identified as Marco Accetti, claimed he had kidnapped the 15-year-old as well as Mirella Gregori in order to pressure the Vatican government to set Agca free. Marco even claimed to be a part of the Grey Wolves, but Agca condemned the kidnapping and insisted that the KGB trained him.
With time, Marco’s account was deemed false, and the police realized that Agca had no connection to the disappearance. Surprisingly, Agca seemed to have a change of heart in prison as he grew pretty close to the Pope after the latter visited him in his cell. The Turkish assassin seemed relieved that he had failed and even went on to say that it was destiny that helped the Pope survive and made them meet. Subsequently, in 1997, there was a hijacking attempt on Air Malta Flight 830, and although the attackers demanded Agca’s freedom, they were soon apprehended.
Where Is Mehmet Ali Agca Today?
After serving about 19 years in a Vatican City prison, Agca was pardoned by the Pope in 2000, following which he returned to Turkey. In Turkey, he faced several charges related to robberies and embezzlements. However, a few of the charges were dropped because of Turkey’s statute of limitations. Ultimately, Agca was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison for two robberies, while his other sentences were adjusted according to the time he served overseas. In fact, his sentencing was extremely complex, and the authorities mistakenly released him in 2006, only to rearrest him again.
Mehmet Ali Agca was finally released from prison in January 2010, after which he visited Pope John Paul II’s grave and proclaimed his desire to become a Roman Catholic. Reports in 2020 mentioned that Agca was residing in a small apartment in a suburb close to Istanbul, Turkey, where he is known for feeding stray dogs and cats regularly. He still seems to live there, and his neighbors have nothing but kind words for the Turkish national. While reports mention that he has sworn off his violent past, Agca is interested in making a documentary about his experiences and maintains a close relationship with his loved ones.