Istanbul — The Turks have no better answers to questions about the motives and connections of Mehmet Ali Agca, the man charged with the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II. Like many others, they just have theories.
The reason for this confusion is the complex character of this notorious Turkish terrorist. "The Italians will realize now how difficult is to find out the truth out of Agca's mouth," a Turkish source said. "His deliberately contradictory statements are part of his clever tactics which keep his acts and connections confusing and mysterious."
Here in Turkey, as in Italy and across Europe, there are more questions than answers about why Agca chose the Pope as a target, whether he acted on his own, or with the support of others.
The letter which Agca sent to the daily Istanbul newspaper Milliyet in November 1979, and the note reported to have been found in his pocket by the Italian police are not considered by Turkish experts to be "convincing."
In his letter to the paper, Agca had threatened to kill the Pope if a scheduled papal visit to Turkey was not canceled. He described the Pontiff as a "crusader commander" acting on behalf of the Western imperialists who were afraid of Turkey's efforts to strengthen ties with the Islamic world. In the note found in Rome he reportedly explained that he attempted to kill the Pope so that the world would know about the victims of American and Russian imperialism.
Turkish experts doubt that Agca chose the Pope as a target for religious reasons. He is not known to be a fanatic -- although he has strong pro-Islamic feelings. Ideologically he is more with the ultra-nationalist movement of the so-called "idealist centers" -- an off-shoot of the neofascist Nationalist Action Party (NAP) led by Alparslan Turkes.
The "idealists" -- also known as "gray wolves" or "commandos" -- are strongly anticommunist and extremely nationalist, with aspirations of a great, powerful Turkey. Undoubtedly Agca shares these views, as he spent his school years in a poor, right-wing environment.
But this is not enough to explain why he should try to kill the Pope. It might perhaps explain -- to a certain extent -- why he murdered Abdi Ipekci. The indictment against Turkes and hundreds of members of his party who are now facing trial says that the youth organization of the NAP had made a list of targets (mainly liberals and leftists) for their assassinations and that Ipekci was one of them. During the trial Agca admitted in the first hearing to having killed Ipekci, but in the second hearing he denied it. However he insisted that he had acted entirely on his own.
Police officers who have questioned Agca say his contradictory statements were deliberate and clever, aiming at fooling the investigators. They believe Agca will use the same tactics with the Italian investigators now.
During his interrogation in Istanbul after Ipekci's murder, Agca had said the editor represented the "establishment." He is against the bourgeoisie and big business just as many other right-wing "idealists."
Despite all his denials in court, Turkish investigators and security experts have never believed that Agca killed Ipekci "on his own" as much as they did not believe that he had no contact with an organization -- possibly the "idealists."
The same circles have serious doubts that Agca attempted to kill the Pope on his own initiative and because of religious convictions --
Most experts in the security services here believe that Agca was being helped by the right-wing extremists (the "idealists") to escape from jail and then to flee the country. Evidence was found of support by personnel at the military prison in Kartal, a suburb of Istanbul, for his escape in November 1979.
Similar evidence was found recently of a right-wing student in Erzurum aiding Agca's crossing into Iran in February 1980.And the Turkish secret service has established his whereabouts in West Germany in 1980 and notified the Germans at least four times.
The assumption here is that Agca was in close contact with the "gray wolves" movement in West Germany, which is strong among the 1.3 million Turks now living in that country. Officials say there is no other way to explain how he moved around in Europe, with a large sum of money. The Turkish press has also been reporting his assumed connections with the right-wing Turkish groups in West Germany and other European countries.
Some officials even go further and see an international conspiracy behind it. They talk about the connection of international terrorism. The Turks, terribly shocked at Agca's terrorist act, seem at least pleased that Europeans have now begun to realize the seriousness of political violence.