Pope Shooter's Request to Attend Funeral Denied

Authorities Tuesday turned down a request by the man who shot and seriously wounded Pope John Paul II (search) in 1981 to leave prison and attend the pontiff's funeral, his lawyer said.

Mehmet Ali Agca (search) was seeking permission under a Turkish law that allows 72 hours' leave to prisoners who have served a quarter of their term and have shown "good behavior," said his lawyer, Mustafa Demirbag.

However, authorities later informed Demirbag that Agca was not eligible for the leave.

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"We got the response, it was negative," Demirbag told The Associated Press by telephone. "They said it was impossible because he was not eligible."

Demirbag said Agca "would not be pleased."

"It was the first time that he was asking Turkish authorities to use his right," Demirbag said. "So, he will be very sorry."

Demirbag has acknowledged earlier that there was little chance that Agca would be allowed to leave prison.

The pope met with Agca in an Italian prison in 1983 and forgave him for the shooting. Agca was extradited to Turkey in 2000 after almost 20 years behind bars in Italy. Agca is currently serving a 17-year prison sentence in Istanbul (search) for earlier crimes in Turkey.

In a separate handwritten letter to the prosecutor, obtained by Associated Press Television News, and dated April 4, Agca said he was seeking permission to fly to Rome in a private jet, accompanied by Interpol police officers.

"I believe that the Vatican and Italian governments will agree to my request," the letter said. "I expect the Turkish government will understand the vital importance of the issue and will urgently give its consent."

In a written statement in Italian faxed to the AP through his lawyers, Agca repeated his claim that he was the messiah and that he was writing "the true perfect bible." He signed off the letter: "Mehmet Ali Agca, the messiah servant."

"I participate in the mourning of my Christian Catholic people," Agca said in the letter in which he referred to the pope as "my spiritual brother."

Demirbag met with Agca at Istanbul's Kartal prison Monday and quoted him as saying: "I must be there. I must attend the funeral. If I can't go then someone from my family should go."

Adnan Agca, the gunman's brother who was received by the pontiff in 1997, was still considering whether to attend the funeral, Demirbag said.