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Top court rejects application demanding opening of Hagia Sophia to Muslim prayer

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has rejected an application which claimed that failing to open the country’s historic Hagia Sophia museum to Muslim prayer violates freedom of faith on the grounds that the foundation making the application is unauthorized to do so, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Thursday.

The foundation, whose name was not revealed, earlier applied to the relevant administrative and judicial authorities demanding the opening of the Hagia Sophia to Muslim prayer, but its efforts failed.

Following this, the foundation made an individual application at the Constitutional Court claiming that not opening Hagia Sophia to Muslim prayer is a violation of freedom of faith.

The top court found the foundation’s application unacceptable on the grounds that it does not have legal standing to file an individual application at the court.

According to Turkish law, legal entities are not allowed to make individual applications at the Constitutional Court. These entities can only file applications if their rights pertaining to their legal entity are violated.

Built in 537 by Byzantine Emperor Justinian, whose rule stretched from Spain to the Middle East, Hagia Sophia — meaning “Divine Wisdom” in Greek — was unrivalled in the Christian world until Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II conquered the city in 1453 and turned it into a mosque. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, decreed it a museum in 1934.

Some Turks want the museum to be converted into a mosque, which has drawn criticism from the international community.

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