Turk Accused in Papal Plot To Stand Trial in Turkey
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Bekir Celenk, who is being tried in absentia in Italy in the alleged plot to kill Pope John Paul II, will face a military court here on charges of smuggling drugs and arms, the Anatolia news agency said Friday.
Celenk was indicted in July on the charges that could bring the death sentence.
The semiofficial news agency said the trial will begin Sept. 18.
Celenk, three other Turks and three Bulgarians are being tried in Rome in a conspiracy case involving the May 1981 attempt to assassinate the pope. Celenk, another Turk, Oral Celik, and two Bulgarians who had worked at their country’s embassy in Rome, are being tried in absentia. The trial now is in summer recess.
The allegations against the seven are based on statements by Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who has been convicted of shooting the pope in St. Peter’s Square.
Agca claimed that Celenk was an intermediary for a Soviet official in Bulgaria. He said the Soviet agent offered $1.2 million to kill the Polish- born pope, who was a strong supporter of Poland’s outlawed Solidarity labor union.
On July 7, Celenk returned to Turkey after nearly three years under custody in Bulgaria. He was seized by police and formally arrested a few days later.
Turkey refused Italy’s request to extradite Celenk, saying that Turkish law bars extradition of its citizens.
Meanwhile in the Netherlands, two Italian magistrates questioned another Turk, Semet Aslan, who was arrested with a pistol the officials think may have be linked to the attack on the pontiff.
Judge Severino Santiapichi and Prosecutor Antonio Marini arrived in Maastricht Thursday and went to the prison where Aslan is serving a three- month prison term for violating Dutch firearms regulations.
They declined to discuss their interrogation of Aslan, which took place over two days in the presence of a Dutch magistrate.
Aslan was was arrested in Holland with a 9mm pistol and eight rounds of ammunition during the pontiff’s visit to the Netherlands in May, during a European tour.
Italian officials believe the gun Aslan had and the one Agca used to shoot John Paul came from the same smuggled lot. No such link was made at Aslan’s trial last June.
Santiapichi and Marini also are expected to go to West Germany to question still another Turk, Yalcin Ozbey, who is imprisoned there on drug charges.
Ozbey, considered to be one of Agca’s closest associates, has said he knew all about the alleged plot to kill the pope and agreed with Agca’s latest assertion that three other Turks were with Agca in St. Peter’s Square at the time of the shooting. At his own trial, Agca said he acted alone. Testifying in the conspiracy trial, he has given different numbers of accomplices he says were in the square at the time of the shooting.
Ozbey and Agca lived in the same town in Turkey where Agca belonged to the Gray Wolves, a right-wing terrorist group.
In Istanbul, Turkey, the daily newspaper Hurriyet reported that Ozbey had advised Agca not give authorities any more information until he could speak with him.
Hurriyet published a copy of the letter that it said was mailed to its Frankfurt bureau by Ozbey from West Germany’s Bochum prison.
The letter said, ″I advise (Agca) not to speak until I can privately meet with him after my release because they want to exploit him. I suppose he understands what I mean.″ It did not say who ″they″ were.
According to Hurriyet, Ozbey said he would cooperate with the Italian court if it allowed him to have a private meeting with Agca.