The trial of the alleged Bulgarian and Turkish conspirators against the life of Pope John Paul II adjourned for a summer recess today. A defense lawyer called for a psychiatric examination of the prosecution's star witness who repeatedly has claimed that he is Jesus Christ.
Nearly two months of courtroom testimony have failed to produce any new evidence to support allegations by Mehmet Ali Agca, the pope's would-be Turkish assassin, that the plot to murder the pope was masterminded by the Bulgarian secret service.
The attention of the judges has been focused instead on a series of claims, contradictions and acknowledged lies by Agca.
Today's session was almost a microcosm of the trial so far. Agca reversed himself twice in 10 minutes on veriher a left-wing Turkish terrorist had taken part in the papal conspiracy. The only evidence he gave that could be corroborated independently concerned his ties with right-wing Turks in the months before the assassination attempt in May 1981.
The trial is expected to continue for up to a year. At least 100 other witnesses are to be heard by the eight-man court. The presiding judge, who has very broad powers to pursue new lines of inquiry, will explore Agca's accusations not only against the three Bulgarian defendants but also against right-wing Turks before the court renders its verdict.
Testifying today, Agca retracted a claim made at the beginning of the present trial that the assassination attempt initially had been commissioned by a Soviet diplomat in Bulgaria named "Malenkov" in July 1980.
"The Soviet Union doesn't enter into this," he told the court.
The request to submit Agca to a full psychiatric examination was made by Domenico Martelli, an Italian lawyer for Bekir Celenk, a suspected Turkish smuggler. Agca has accused Celenk of paying the equivalent of $1.2 million for the assassination of the pope on behalf of the Bulgarian secret service.
Martelli described Agca as a pathological liar suffering from an advanced state of paranoia. He said that the Turk's claims about being the reincarnation of Christ appeared to be the product of a "delirious mind."
Judge Severino Santiapichi, the president of the eight-man court, postponed a ruling on Martelli's request, which he described as "very delicate." No full psychiatric examination of Agca ever has been conducted in Italy, although several judges, including Santiapichi, have described him as sane in the past.
A court-appointed psychiatrist who examined Agca in Turkey after he confessed to the murder of a prominent newspaper editor in 1979 pronounced him mentally fit to stand trial but mentioned a pronounced narcissistic streak in his character.
Agca, 27, who alternately scowled and grinned while Martelli made his request, later said he had no objection to a psychiatric examination since his mentality was of a different order to that of "men of the planet Earth."
"I am unique. I am a great expert on man, thousands of times more so than Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin and the others put together," he said.
Adopting the tone of voice of a religious preacher, he went on: "God wanted this trial. I appeared at this trial on May 27 before 600 or 700 journalists who had come here wanting to make some political exploitation of the Soviet Union and Bulgaria. They took home with them the end of the world. The invisible God told me to announce that the world will be destroyed in this generation."
Agca infuriated the judge and the prosecutor by retracting an earlier statement that he was accompanied to St. Peter's Square on the day of the assassination attempt by Sedat Sirri Kadem, a left-wing Turkish terrorist from his home town of Malatya in eastern Turkey.
A few minutes later, after Santiapichi demanded angrily why he had accused an innocent man, he retracted the retraction.
Pressed to explain his repeated contradictions, Agca said that he was tired of the trial and wanted it to end. "I thought that perhaps somebody would say we have had enough of this," he said
The court will reassemble on Aug. 5 for an extraordinary three-day session before continuing with its summer recess until late September.
The purpose of the special session is to interrogate Yalcin Ozbey, a Turkish acquaintance of Agca now in prison in West Germany on fraud charges. Ozbey could be released next month.
Ozbey, a member of the right-wing Turkish terrorist group known as the Gray Wolves, has provided Italian investigators with an account of events that is markedly different from Agca's. He said Agca sought the assistance of the Bulgarian secret service in murdering the pope but was rebuffed.