Saturday, May 03, 2008

Agca to Become Polish Citizen?

Sometimes I come across a story that is confusing. Other times the story is just plain odd. This one is a bit of both.

From the AP via Yahoo:

The Turkish gunman who shot and wounded Pope John Paul II is applying for Polish citizenship because he wants to live in the country of the late pontiff, whom he called his "spiritual brother."

But the Polish Foreign Ministry said the chances of Mehmet Ali Agca getting citizenship are "minimal" since he hasn't provided any "good service" to John Paul's mostly Catholic homeland.

Agca also wants to be transferred to a prison in Poland to serve the remainder of his sentence on a different conviction, lawyer Haci Ali Ozhan told The Associated Press.

"He has chosen Poland because it is country of the pope," Ozhan said. "Because the pope forgave him and paid close attention to him, we believe that the application will be accepted."

Agca shot and seriously wounded John Paul at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on May 13, 1981. Two years later the pope met with Agca in an Italian prison and forgave him for the shooting.

Agca served 19 years in an Italian prison for the attack. He currently is serving a prison term in Turkey for killing prominent journalist Abdi Ipekci in Turkey in 1979 and is due to be released in 2010.

What motivated his crimes remains a mystery, but he belonged to an extreme right-wing Turkish organization, the Grey Wolves, which was involved in political murders in the 1970s.

In a petition addressed to Poland's devout Roman Catholic president, Lech Kaczynski, Agca said: "I shall be proud of becoming a member of the noble Polish nation, if my request to be granted Polish citizenship is accepted."

The petition to the president, who has the power to bestow or revoke Polish citizenship, was made available to the AP.

"I am not a stranger to your country because the national hero of Poland, Pope Karol Wojtyla, is my spiritual brother," Agca said, referring to John Paul by his birth name.

Agca's lawyer said he submitted the application to the Polish Embassy in Ankara on Thursday. It wasn't immediately processed, however, due to some missing paperwork. Ozhan said he would return next week to complete the application.

In Warsaw, Poland, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Piotr Paszkowski, said officials had known for some time of Agca's plan but that chances of him being accepted were slim.

"The condition for according Polish citizenship is residence in Poland for at least five years, prior to applying," Paszkowski said. "I think that at least from this formal point of view the chances for Ali Agca receiving Polish citizenship are minimal."

Paszkowski said the five-year rule "can be waived if the foreigner seeking Polish citizenship has special merits for the country, has done good service to Poland."

"Agca rather has not."

John Paul is revered as a national hero in Poland. After he was shot, priests throughout the country led prayers for him amid fears he would not survive.

John Paul II died April 2, 2005, after serving as pope for almost 27 years.

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