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Unsatisfying verdict in Rome

By YN / April 3, 1986



CONSPIRACY theses -- and trials -- have a way of never quite satisfying the participants involved, or the verdict of history. One need only think of the many unanswered questions still surrounding the assassination of John Kennedy -- not to mention President Lincoln. Nor is the United States unique. Historians still wonder who did in ``the little princes'' in the Tower of London centuries back.

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In this regard, there may be little wonder that Italian judicial authorities were unable to reach a definitive judgment in the trial of the three Turks and three Bulgarians acquitted last week in the so-called ``Bulgarian connection'' case. The defendants had been accused of plotting to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981.

After months of difficult legal debate -- not to mention the circuslike antics in the courtroom -- the court acquitted the defendants for lack of proof. Unlike Anglo-Saxon proceedings, the Italian decision does not mean that the defendants were found innocent. Rather, the verdict lies in the middle, between the extremes of guilt or innocence.

The disruptive courtroom outbursts of Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca, who had already been given a life sentence for his wounding of the Pope, made a verdict impossible. Questions about the shooting remain unanswered. There were allegations not only of ``left wing'' links to Agca, but also Turkish ``right wing'' links. Italian officials warrant praise for attempting to unravel the case. But the judicial authorities involved must also bear responsibility for the bizarre manner in which the trial was conducted.

Whatever the truth about the case, the shooting is another unfortunate reminder of the need for people in the public eye in Western democracies to take precautionary measures against unpredictable terrorist acts.