'Bulgarian connection' leak splits authorities
From Eleni Dimmler in Rome SERGE1 IVANOV Antonov, the only Bulgarian being held in connection with the 1981 plot to kill Pope John Paul early this week prepared to leave Rome's Rebibbia prison amid growing friction between the Italian public prosecutor and magistrate investigating the so-called "Bulgarian connection".
Judge Ilario Martella agreed to move Antonov from prison to house arrest because of a medical report filed by defence lawyers, saying that imprisonment is seriously damaging the Bulgarian's mental and physical health.
For the second time since Antonov's arrest on November 25, 1982, the magistrate granted house arrest despite the objections of state prosecutor Antonio Albano who has called for the indictment of AntOnov, two other Bulgarians and six lurks and voiced certainty that the "Bulgarian connection" is real.
In a confidential 78-page report leaked to American journalist and author Claire Sterling and partially published in the New York Times last week, Albano said there is evidence that the Bulgarian secret service and neo-Nazi Turkish criminal groups organized the papal assassination attempt to destroy Poland's now-outlawed solidarity labour movement.
The report's leakage to the press angered Martella who has the final word on indictment and has yet to decide publicly whether to order the trial of Antonov and the other suspects.
Lawyers for Antonov and Judicial sources said the leakage may have prompted Martella to act more quickly over AIbano's objections and order Antonov's transfer to house arrest.
"It's obvious that the fact that house arrest was authorised
just one week after Mrs. Sterling's article is no coincidence," Giuseppe Consolo, one of Antonov's attorneys, told the Carbolic Herald.
Albano has voiced concern that the Bulgarian may try to escape or be attacked by enemies. Antonov's actual transfer will not take place until a residence judged more secure than his previous one is found.
Italian authorities have launched an inquiry into how Mrs Sterling obtained the report first mentioned by the Italian press in May and more recently quoted by NBC News and by the Italian weekly, L 'Espresso.
The report reveals that Mehmet Ali Agca, the convicted Turkish gunman serving a life sentence in Italy for shooting Pope John Paul on May 13, 1981, in St Peter's Square. has twice changed his story on Antonov's role in the assassination plot.
Basing the report on 25,000 pages of documentation gathered by Martella, Albano said that despite discrepancies in Agca's accounts, there is sufficient evidence to warrant the trial of all suspects including two Bulgarian diplomats who are now in Sofia. Italian law permits that suspects be tried in absentia.
Albano's report makes no direct mention of the . Soviet Union but refers to it indirectly. It says that Poland's labour movement which was born after the election of history's first Polish Pope was a "moral threat" to the Eastern Bloc.
"In some secret place, where every secret is wrapped in another secret, some political figure of great power noted the extremely grave situation and, in coherence with the superior vital needs of the Eastern Bloc, decided it was necessary to kill (Pope) Karol Wojtyla."
Bulgarian officials and journalists have attacked the report and branded Mrs Sterling a CIA agent full of prejudice.
US Secretary of State George Shultz said recently that should the Bulgarian connection prove true, "it cannot help but have grave consequences on EastWest relations."
It appears probable that Judge Martella will call for the
indictment of the suspected Bulgarians and Turks but he is taking his time in announcing the decision. Judicial sources say the cautious and methodical magistrate has lived in near total isolation since launching the investigating three years ago, and may wait until after the court's summer recess before making a pronouncement.