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Witness Says Celik Had Nothing To Do With Attack

September 23, 1985

ROME (AP) _ A Turkish convict testified Monday that Oral Celik, accused of helping shoot the pope, was watching television in Vienna the day of the attack and was seen by others.

Abdullah Catli also said that Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot Pope John Paul II and then turned state’s evidence, ″tells a lot of lies.″

Agca had testified that his best friend Celik and two other Turks were with him in St. Peter’s Square to help in the assassination attempt.

Other claims by Agca concerning the pope plot have been disputed in recent court testimony. Last week, another Turkish witness disputed Agca’s claim that Bulgarians masterminded the shooting and paid two would-be assassins $1.2 million.

It is largely due to Agca that this trial was begun in May against three Bulgarians and four Turks for allegedly conspiring in the May 13, 1981, shooting.

But Catli, on loan from France where he is serving time for violating drug and forgery laws, said Celik was in the Vienna apartment the two shared when the attack happened.

″I was speaking on the phone with my brother in Turkey, and Oral was watching television in the next room,″ Catli said in French and Turkish.

″Then, he (Celik) came over to me and told me what the television was reporting,″ Catli said, speaking through an interpreter. He said it was then that they learned Agca, who he said liked to ″be the center of attention,″ had shot the pope.

Celik, still at large, is being tried in absentia. Another Turkish defendant and two of the accused Bulgarians are also being tried in absentia.

The 29-year-old Catli said he had at least one other witness to prove his story, saying he and Celik had dinner that night with a fellow Turk.

Catli, tall and pale, has admitted providing Agca with a false passport and the Browning pistol used to shoot the pope.

Agca, serving a live sentence for the shooting, exercised his right not to attend the trial. He also boycotted the session Friday and again Saturday morning, although he showed up Saturday afternoon.

Catli said he had heard Agca wanted to shoot either the Soviet ambassador in Vienna or the pope.

″Agca called me from Italy two or three days before the attack and asked if he could come to Vienna,″ Catli said. ″That made me think he had changed his idea....″

Catli was once leader of the right-wing Idealists, also known as Gray Wolves, in Turkey before he fled the country for allegedly taking part in the murder of seven people.

He is not charged in the papal plot.

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