23 January 2006

Close but no cigar

BerlinBear avatar If you ask me, this is pretty harsh: it is being reported today that Mehmet Ali Acga, the gunman who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981, has been returned to prison in Turkey, where he will remain until 2010. This comes just eight days after he was released from prison after serving what he thought was his full term for that crime and for the prior murder of a Turkish journalist.

After all the hoo-ha in the international media the week before last about the deceased Pope's would-be killer being released from prison, it would seem that the Turkish authorities have had a change of heart. BBC News reports:

Last week Turkey's top court had ruled that Mehmet Ali Agca had not spent enough time in jail for killing a Turkish journalist in 1979. He was released earlier this month, but was returned to jail after eight days.

He has spent nearly 25 years in Italian and Turkish jails but has never revealed why he tried to kill the Pope.

Prosecutors say Agca, 48, must now stay in prison until 18 January 2010, the Anatolia agency reports.

Turkish Justice Minister Cemil Cicek had appealed against his release earlier this month, arguing that cuts in his original jail term had been miscalculated. Mr Cicek said Agca should serve a full 10-year term for the 1979 murder of left-wing Turkish journalist Abdi Ipekci, as well as two bank robberies.

While I'm fully in favour of criminals serving their rightful sentences, I does strike me as pretty cruel to release someone from prison only to re-arrest them just over a week later. Presumably, Acga must have thought he was a free man after almost 25 years behind bars and must have just been beginning the task of re-adjusting to life outside prison, only to be told "No, sorry mate, there's been a mistake, four more years for you." Couldn't the Turkish authorities have got all this palaver sorted out before releasing Acga, thus sparing him what I imagine is a pretty traumatic "close but no cigar" glimpse of freedom? What a shambles!