ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) — In a bizarre outburst in court, the gunman who shot Pope John Paul II called the Vatican the "enemy of God and humanity" on Monday and said he had launched "a cultural war" against the Holy See.
Mehmet Ali Agca stood trial in an Istanbul court for an armed robbery of a soda factory and theft of a getaway car in 1979.
Italy pardoned Agca and extradited him to Turkey in mid-June after he had served almost 20 years for the shooting of the pope. The Vatican had been instrumental in Agca's pardon and at the time, the gunman had said through a lawyer that he was grateful to the pope and the Vatican.
"The Vatican is the enemy of God, it is the enemy of humanity!" Agca spontaneously shouted as he was being transferred to a larger courtroom Monday.
"I will make the Vatican Empire — the enemy of humanity — feel remorse," he said. "I have launched a cultural war against the Vatican."
Later, Agca's lawyer distributed a handwritten statement from the Turk accusing the Vatican of "changing" the secrets of Fatima and of orchestrating the 1981 assassination attempt against the pope.
"My Catholic brothers, I love you, why do you not abandon a Vatican which arranges the assassination of its own pope?" the statement said. The gunman wanted to read out the statement in court, but the judge would not allow him to do so.
Vatican spokesmen were not available for comment.
Last month, the Vatican published the text of the "third secret" of Fatima, what the Virgin Mary is said to have told three shepherd children in Fatima in 1917. The Vatican said it foretold the shooting of the pope.
Agca, who is serving a 10-year prison term in Turkey for killing a liberal newspaper editor, rejected accusations of any involvement in the 1979 robbery. He faces an additional 9 1/2 years in prison on charges of stealing $4,500 from the soda factory and commandeering a taxi to get away.
Judge Nusret Ince said the court had obtained permission from Italy to prosecute Agca for another 1979 robbery, that of an Istanbul jewelry shop. The two cases would be combined into one, he said.
Agca also denied robbing the jewelry shop.
"If I were in any danger from these fairy tales, I would never have returned, no one could have made me return," Agca said.
The court has asked police to track down eight people to testify about the soda plant robbery, two years before Agca shot the pope.
So far, only the cab driver has been located.
He testified that Agca and two friends commandeered his cab at gunpoint.
The court adjourned until Aug. 9 to give Agca time to prepare a defense. The gunman complained he had not seen a lawyer since his extradition.
On Monday, police brought Agca — who had escaped from a Turkish prison in 1979 — to court under extremely tight security. Sharpshooters stood watch from rooftops, and armored personnel carriers patrolled the streets.