One of the Turks accused by Mehmet Ali Agca of being part of his hit team when he shot Pope John Paul II in 1981 confronted Agca in court today and angrily denied the charges.
"Why did you give my name?" asked Sedat Sirri Kaddem as the Turks sat before the two judges and six jurors in the court trying to establish the veracity of Agca's often contradictory testimony. "How can you be looking at me and tell such lies?"
Kadem told the court that the only reason he knew for Agca naming him was Agca's wish to implicate the left in the assassination attempt and to reinforce his claims that the papal assassination was orchestrated by the Bulgarian Secret Service at the behest of the Soviet Union.
Kadem voluntarily flew to Rome from Turkey yesterday to testify in the trial of the three Bulgarians and four Turks implicated by Agca.
The court is meeting in a special session this week, after adjourning in July for a summer recess that lasts until mid-September.
Kadem said he had never been outside of Turkey and had never had a passport until he flew here to try to clear his name.
A 30-year-old leftist activist from Agca's home village of Malatya, Kadem is not a defendant in the trial. His name was brought up by Agca in testimony last month, when Agca substantially revised key points of his pretrial depositions.
Although Kadem said he knew Agca from their college days in Turkey, he denied knowing either of the other two Turks Agca has implicated.
But Agca continued to claim that Kadem was part of the plot and had met him and the other conspirators in Vienna, Milan, Zurich and Munich, before going to Rome for the attempt on the pope's life.
Earlier in the trial, Agca identified Kadem in a photograph taken by an American tourist at the assassination site. Kadem denied that he was the man in the picture, and the court noted that the nose on the face in the picture differed from Kadem's. Also, the man in the picture did not have the mustache that Kadem claimed he has had since his school days.
The court hopes in the coming days to interrogate two other Turks who they think may have some knowledge of the assassination.
Both, however, are in jails elsewhere in Europe and have refused to fly to Rome to testify, forcing the court to try to visit them in jail.
Samet Arslan was arrested in the Netherlands during the pope's visit there earlier this year. Yalcin Ozbey, reportedly a close friend of Agca's and a man who also named Kadem as part of the plot, is in jail in West Germany after conviction on a narcotics charge.