Reputed Mobster And Papal Plot Defendant Dies URGENT
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Bekir Celenk, a reputed Turkish mobster and absentee defendant in the pope plot trial in Rome, died Monday of a heart attack, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported.
The dispatch said Celenk suffered a heart attack at the Mamak military prison and died on the way to the Gulhane Military Hospital.
The agency said Celenk’s body was at the morgue of the hospital, but no further details were immediately available.
Celenk, 51, was standing trial here on charges of arms and drugs smuggling. He faced the death penalty if convicted.
The Italian court was planning to move to Turkey this month to question Celenk and other witnesses in connection with an alleged plot to kill Pope John Paul II.
Celenk was being tried in absentia in Rome as an accomplice in the 1981 shooting of the pope. He was charged with conspiracy after Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turk convicted of trying to assassinate the pope, turned state’s evidence and implicated others.
Agca is serving a life sentence in Italy for shooting the Polish-born pontiff in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981.
Three other Turks and three Bulgarians are accused of complicity in a plot to kill John Paul II. The indictment charged Celenk with offering 3 million German marks, then worth $1.2 million, to Agca to kill the pope.
Celenk returned to Turkey in July after nearly three years imprisonment in Bulgaria. He went on trial in September on charges of smuggling arms through Bulgaria.
Celenk complained of a heart condition in court sessions here and frequently took pills.
Italy had requested extradition of Celenk, but Turkish authorities refused, citing a law prohibiting extradition of Turkish nationals.
He testified in Turkey that he did not know Agca or Omar Celik, another Turk accused of shooting the pope. Celik’s whereabouts are unknown.
After two years in prison, Agca, who in the first trial had claimed he acted alone, said Celik had also fired at the pope.
Celenk told the Turkish court he exported bottled drinking water to Bulgaria, but had no business contact with the Bulgarians accused in the attack on the pope.
The three defendants in custody in Rome are Sergei Ivanov Antonov, the former Rome station chief of the Bulgarian state airlines; Omer Bagci, A Turk accused of delivering the pistol Agca used; and Musa Serdar Celebi, a former leader of the Gray Wolves, a right-wing Turkish youth movement often accused of terrorism.
Two other Bulgarian defendants - Todor Aivazov and Lt. Col. Zhelyo Kolev Vassilev - are in Bulgaria and claim diplomatic immunity.
Agca is also being tried for illegally importing the pistol he used in the shooting.
During the trial in Rome on Monday, a Roman Catholic nun and six others who were in St. Peter’s Square when the pope was shot, testified that they did not see others running from the scene.
Sister Lucia Giudici told the court that she saw Agca fire two shots, and that she had tried to grab him by the arm as he fled. She said Agca cried, ″Not me, not me.″
When asked by Judge Severino Santiapichi if he recognized Sister Lucia, Agca said, ″I don’t remember...There were about 10 people around me.″
The other six witnesses gave similar accounts. All had testified in the first trial in which Agca was convicted.