The Turkish gunman who shot Pope John Paul II in May 1981 accused a right-wing Italian Masonic lodge today of organizing the kidnaping of the daughter of a Vatican employe in an attempt to spring him from prison.
Giving testimony as the trial of his alleged Bulgarian and Turkish accomplices in the papal plot ended its third week, Mehmet Ali Agca said he was convinced that the 1983 kidnap victim, 15-year-old Emanuela Orlandi, was still alive.
The Orlandi case has created a sensation in Italy, unleashing a flood of speculation about possible links with the papal assassination attempt. But, despite a series of messages from a group calling itself the "Turkish Anti-Christian Liberation Front" demanding her exchange with Agca, there is no firm evidence that the girl is still alive.
Today's testimony marked the first time that Agca has mentioned the Masonic lodge known as Propaganda 2, or P2, which gave its name to one of postwar Italy's greatest political scandals. The lodge was described by an Italian parliamentary commission as a "state within a state" that exercised great influence until its leading members were uncovered in 1981. Its grandmaster, industrialist Licio Gelli, escaped from a Swiss prison in 1983 and is now a fugitive.
Testifying on his sixth day on the witness stand, Agca said: "It is certain that Orlandi is alive. She was certainly kidnaped by the powerful Masonic organization P2 of Licio Gelli, because this organization knew with certainty that I am Jesus Christ."
Raising his voice, he continued: "They wanted to insert me into the Vatican and use me as an instrument. But I am for all of humanity. I am not an instrument. I respect Italian democracy, and I am not in favor of any exchange. This is the truth."
"Let's leave aside your divine powers," interrupted Judge Severino Santiapichi, who has refused to discuss the papal assailant's repeated claims that he is Jesus Christ on the ground that they are irrelevant. He did not explore Agca's allegations about P2.
The Turkish gunman was asked to look at pictures of the scene in St. Peter's Square on the day the pope was shot and to identify his accomplices. After laboriously examining the photographs, he said he thought he had spotted two defendants: Sergei Antonov, the former deputy director of the Bulgarian airline Balkanair, and Oral Celik, a member of the right-wing Turkish terrorist group the Gray Wolves, who is being tried in absentia.
"Who is this supposed to be?" asked Santiapichi, holding up a color photograph of St. Peter's Square that Agca had marked.
"Antonov," the Turk replied. He later added, however, that he was only "90 percent certain."
The picture, later displayed to journalists by court officials, depicted a dark-haired man resembling Antonov. A similar picture was published by the French weekly Paris Match in 1982, but the man in question turned out to be an American tourist.
Agca later partially retracted his statement about both Antonov and Celik, saying it was possible he had made "an error." He explained that identification was difficult because of the small size of the photos.