Agca Says Plot to Kill Pope Began in Soviet Embassy
Turkish terrorist Mehmet Ali Agca testified today that the 1981 plot to kill Pope John Paul II was hatched in the Soviet Embassy in the Bulgarian capital and that a Soviet diplomat paid more than $1 million to a right-wing Turkish group and five Bulgarians.
Agca, 27, the state’s star witness in the trial of eight men accused of plotting to kill the Pope, took the stand again shortly after resumption of the trial, which had recessed Friday. After his testimony, Judge Severino Santiapichi ordered a recess until Wednesday morning.
“The first secretary of the Soviet Embassy paid 3 million (West German) marks (then worth $1.2 million) through Celenk to the head of the Gray Wolves, Celebi,” Agca told the judge.
Bekir Celenk is the Turkish businessman and resident of the Bulgarian capital of Sofia accused of masterminding the May 13, 1981, attack on John Paul. Musa Cerdar Celebi is accused of being the link between Agca and Celenk.
“The order to kill the Pope started from the Soviet Embassy in Sofia,” Agca said. “We Gray Wolves (a right-wing Turkish terrorist organization) acted with the determining complicity of Antonov, Aivazov and Vasilev.”
Sergei Antonov, Todor Aivazov and Zhelio Vasilev are the three Bulgarians indicted in the Rome trial. Antonov was arrested in Rome in 1982, but the other two Bulgarians are being tried in absentia.
Under questioning today by the judge, Agca said he met with Celenk, Aivazov, and the first secretary of the Soviet Embassy in room 911 of Sofia’s Vitosha Hotel in July, 1980, to discuss the attack.
When the judge asked him why the Soviet diplomat was at that meeting, Agca said, “We also talked about attacks on NATO.”
He said he was not sure of the Soviet diplomat’s name, but gave a detailed physical description of the man.
Agca’s testimony about the Soviet diplomat surprised prosecutors.
State Prosecutor Antonio Marini told reporters that Agca, in his pretrial statements to investigators, never mentioned meeting a Soviet diplomat.