160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! ISTANBUL, Turkey – Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who shot Pope John Paul II, walked out of Kartal prison in Istanbul a free man early Thursday, stepping from a tight security cordon at the gate into a waiting car that was showered with flowers by his supporters as it drove away. Wearing a blue sweater and jeans, Agca looked tense at his first stop, the local military office, where he was obliged to report for the mandatory military service he missed over many years on the run and in jail. Another crowd awaited him as he stepped out of the building, whistling, clapping and displaying a large Turkish flag as the car moved slowly through the crowd. A 48-year-old native of Malatya, a town in eastern Turkey, Agca has long been associated with an ultranationalist group called the Gray Wolves and also with members of the Turkish criminal underworld. He has never admitted any association with such groups, and over the course of more than 120 interrogations has constantly frustrated investigators with contradictory statements about his motivations for shooting the pope. In addition to the assassination attempt in 1981, he was convicted in the 1979 killing of Abdi Ipekci, a prominent liberal journalist, and of escaping from prison soon afterward, as well as two lesser offenses. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa Anita He was sentenced to 36 years in prison for the five crimes. Turkish courts, however, counted the 19 years that he spent in Italian custody before being pardoned and applied a 10-year reduction based on a general amnesty law passed in 2000. So they decided that he should be released after having spent five years, six months and 27 days in Turkish jails.