Man Who Shot Pope John Paul II Seeks Polish Citizenship

The Turkish gunman who shot and wounded Pope John Paul II has applied for Polish citizenship and wants to live in the late pontiff's country of birth when released from prison, his lawyer said Friday.

Mehmet Ali Agca also wants to be transferred to a prison in Poland to serve the remainder of his term, lawyer Haci Ali Ozhan told The Associated Press.

Ozhan said he submitted Agca's application for Polish citizenship to the Polish Embassy on Thursday. The embassy would not comment on the application or its likelihood of success.

"I shall be proud of becoming a member of the noble Polish nation, if my request to be granted Polish citizenship is accepted," Agca said in a petition addressed to the Polish president. The petition was submitted to the embassy and made available to The Associated Press.

"I am not a stranger to your country because the national hero of Poland, Pope Karol Wojtyla, is my spiritual brother," Agca said, referring to John Paul by his other name.

Agca shot and seriously wounded John Paul in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City, on May 13, 1981, and two years later the pope met with Agca in an Italian prison and forgave him for the shooting.

Agca served 19 years in an Italian prison for the attack. He currently is serving a prison term in Turkey for killing prominent journalist Abdi Ipekci in Turkey in 1979. Agca is due to be released in 2010. What motivated his crimes remains a mystery, but he belonged to an extreme right-wing Turkish organization the Grey Wolves, which was involved in political murders in the 1970s.

"He has chosen Poland because it is country of the pope," Ozhan said. "Because the pope forgave him and paid close attention to him, we believe that the application will be accepted."

Agca's brother, Adnan Agca, was in contact with Stanislaw Dziwisz, the archbishop of Krakow, Poland, and would also seek his help, Ozhan said. Dziwisz was John Paul's closest aide for 40 years.

John Paul II died April 2, 2005, after serving as pope for almost 27 years.