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Turkish man who shot Pope John Paul II freed from prison

ANKARA, Turkey - The Turkish man who shot Pope John Paul II nearly 29 years ago emerged from prison yesterday, declared himself a messenger from God, then spent his first night of freedom in a luxury hotel room.

Mehmet Ali Agca, 52, said he would talk to the media in the next few days. But it seemed doubtful his comments would clear up uncertainty over whether he acted alone or had the backing of communist agents, as he once claimed. He has issued contradictory statements over the years and there are questions about his mental health.

Agca shot John Paul on May 13, 1981, as the pope rode in an open car in St. Peter's Square. The pontiff was hit in the abdomen, left hand and right arm. John Paul met with Agca in Italy's Rebibbia prison in 1983 and forgave him.

Following his release, Agca, his hair now gray, waved to journalists and sat calmly between two plainclothes policemen in the back of a sedan that took him to a military hospital. There, doctors concluded he was unfit for compulsory military service because of "severe anti-social personality disorder," said his lawyer, Yilmaz Abosoglu.

Upon his arrival later at the five-star Sheraton hotel, he addressed reporters in English.

"I will meet you in the next three days," Agca said. "In the name of God Almighty, I proclaim the end of the world in this century. "

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