Italian Prosecutor Asks for Temporary Extradition of Celenk
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ An Italian prosecutor urged Turkey on Saturday to temporarily extradite Bekir Celenk, who is charged with complicity in the 1981 shooting of Pope John Paul II, or permit court officials to question him directly.
Celenk, 50, returned to Turkey from Bulgaria last Sunday. The reputed head of a Bulgaria-based smuggling ring, he had been held under house arrest in the communist country for the past three years.
Mehmet Ali Agca, the convicted papal assailant, has claimed that Celenk offered him and two Turkish accomplices $1.2 milion to kill John Paul. Agca said Celenk was acting as an intermediary for a Soviet official in Bulgaria.
Turkey earlier announced that Celenk would not be handed over to Italy in accordance with its laws barring extradition of its citizens.
Celenk was flown under police custody from Istabul to Ankara Friday after five days of questioning about smuggling and drug trafficking.
Antonio Marini, the Italian prosecutor flew to Istanbul and suggested that Celenk be extradited temporarily to testify at the Rome trial of seven Turks and Bulgarians accused of conspiring to kill the pope. If that can’t be arranged, he asked authorities to allow Italian prosecutors or judges to question Celenk in Turkey.
Marini made the statement after three hours of talks with Istanbul’s chief prosecutor Necdet Menguc.
Menguc indicated disapproval, telling reporters that Turkish judicial authorities could act as intermediaries, relaying questions from the Rome court to Celenk and delivering his answers to the court.
Marini also urged Turkish officials to question Omer Ay and Sedat Sirri Kadem, Turks mentioned by Agca as being involved in the plot. The two men have not been charged with any crime in the Rome trial.
Agca is serving a life sentence in Italy for shooting and seriously wounding John Paul in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981.
In testimony Wednesday at an Istanbul court, Celenk denied involvement in the papal plot and said he had no contacts with Agca.
Bulgaria, which has been conducting its own investigation of the shooting, said it sent Celenk back to Turkey because it found no indication of any conspiracy to murder John Paul.
A total of four Turks and three Bulgarians are being tried in Rome for complicity in the papal shooting, but only three are in custody and appearing before the court. They are Bulgarian SErgei Ivanov Antonov, who was head of the Bulgarian airline’s office in Rome, and Turks Omer Bagci and Musa Serdar Celebi.
Being tried in absentia are Celenk and another Turk, Oral Celik, and two Bulgarians who with their nation’s embassy in Rome, Todor Aivazov and Lt. Col. Zhelyo Kolev Vassilev.
Earlier, a Turkish reporter on the plane with Celenk Friday reported that Cekebj became sick and his blood pressure dropped during the flight to Ankara. The reporter for the Istanbul daily Gunes said Celenk was given emergency aid, including an injection and oxygen. The Gunes reporter was the only journalist on the flight.
Celenk’s family has said he suffers from a heart ailment.
The newspaper also said that that during his interrogation at police headquarters in Istanbul, Celenk confessed to using a Bulgarian state-owned firm, Kintex, to smuggle arms and electronics equipment in the 1960s.
Celenk reportedly told investigators that he and four other Turks sent half a million rounds of ammunition and 500 Czechoslovak-made guns through Bulgaria to Turkey.
The newspaper said the article was based on the transcript of Celenk’s testimony to police. It quoted Celenk as saying the smugglers paid 10 percent of their profit to Kintex.