The Turkish gunman who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981, gaining notoriety for himself and shame for his homeland, prepared to taste freedom for the first time in a quarter-century with his release from prison Thursday. Hundreds of nationalists gathered in Istanbul to greet Mehmet Ali Agca, who will be freed from an Istanbul prison less than five years after Italy pardoned him and extradited him to Turkey. But ordinary citizens reacted with disgust at the imminent release of the man who became the world's most infamous Turk. "A murderer like him who has stained Turkey's image should not be released," Deniz Ergin, a 23-year-old university student, said Wednesday. Agca, now 48, shot the pope as he rode in an open car in St. Peter's Square in Rome on May 13, 1981, and was captured immediately. The pontiff, hit in the abdomen, left hand and right arm, recovered because Agca's bullets missed vital organs.