Babacan says would have attended Hagia Sophia ceremony

DEVA Party chairman Ali Babacan said on Thursday that he had not received an invitation to attend the grand opening of Hagia Sophia as a mosque but would have gone if he he had been invited.

“The thing is already done. The rest is just comment. The Hagia Sophia issue is one of them,” Babacan said on a programme aired on Habertürk cited by Diken news website.

“Our colleagues have different opinions,” Babacan added.

Babacan, a former deputy prime minister, quit the ruling Justice and Development Party last year to found the opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) in March.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is set to join hundreds of worshipers on Friday for what will be the first communal Muslim prayers held in the Istanbul landmark in 86 years.

The Hagia Sophia, originally built as a Byzantine cathedral in 537, was turned into a mosque following the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul on May 29, 1453, and then became a museum in 1935 under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s presidency.

On July 10, Erdoğan announced the opening of the Hagia Sophia to Muslim worship after Turkey’s highest administrative court ruled that the building’s conversion to a museum was illegal.