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Turkey court to issue Hagia Sophia verdict to be delivered within 15 days

A general view of Hagia Sophia Museum and its surroundings remain empty due to the measures against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Istanbul, Turkey on 3 May 2020. [Mehmet Eser - Anadolu Agency]
A general view of Hagia Sophia Museum and its surroundings remain empty due to the measures against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Istanbul, Turkey on 3 May 2020. [Mehmet Eser - Anadolu Agency]

Turkey’s top administrative court today announced that it will deliver the verdict on whether Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia should remain a museum or be turned into a mosque within 15 days, Turkish daily Milliyet reported.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proposed restoring the mosque status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a building at the heart of both Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires and today one of Turkey’s most visited monuments.

The Turkish government decided to turn the mosque into a museum in 1934 the early years of the modern secular Turkish state founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The court case disputes the legality of that conversion.

Yesterday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Turkey to let Hagia Sophia remain a museum. Ankara slammed Pompeo’s remarks.

In a statement, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said: “We are shocked at the statement made by the US State Department on Hagia Sophia.”

Meanwhile, last month, the spiritual head of the world’s Orthodox Christians warned that converting Istanbul’s sixth-century Hagia Sophia back into a mosque would sow division.

The Hagia Sophia was used as a church for 916 years. In 1453, it was converted into a mosque by Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II when the empire conquered Istanbul.

READ: Russia church reject Turkey’s Hagia Sophia mosque conversion plans

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