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Turkey’s Hagia Sophia to Be Reopened as Mosque after Court Decision
By Staff, Agencies
A top Turkish court on Friday revoked the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia's status as a museum, clearing the way for it to be turned back into a mosque, the official Anadolu news agency reported.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the court's decision and announced that the site would be handed over to Turkey's religious affairs directorate and reopened for Muslim worshipping.
Erdogan's announcement comes shortly after a top Turkish court revoked the sixth-century Hagia Sophia's status as a museum, clearing the way for it to be turned back into a mosque.
The Council of State, which was debating a case brought by a Turkish NGO, canceled a 1934 cabinet decision and ruled the site would be reopened to Muslim worshipping.
Earlier on Friday, UNESCO warned Turkey against converting the Hagia Sophia museum, a World Heritage site, in Istanbul into a mosque, urging dialogue before any decision is taken.
Hagia Sophia was first constructed as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire in 537 AD but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
Turning it into a museum was a key reform of the post-Ottoman authorities under the modern republic's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Calls for it to serve again as a mosque has sparked anger among Christians and tensions between the historic foes and uneasy NATO allies Turkey and Greece. Russia, which has become an increasingly important partner of Turkey in recent years, has also urged against altering its status.
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