Turkey's Supreme Court rejects opening Hagia Sophia for Muslim prayers

Turkey's Supreme Court has rejected an application calling for the opening of Hagia Sophia, a 6th-century Byzantine cathedral in Istanbul, to Muslim prayers, state-run Anadolu news agency said on Thursday.

The Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage site, served as the centre of the Greek Orthodox church for more than 900 years before it was converted to a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the secularist founder of modern Turkey, had the giant building turned into a museum in 1935, but Islamists have campaigned ever since to make it into a mosque again.

The Supreme Court ruled that the person who filed the application to hold Muslim prayers inside Hagia Sophia on the grounds of religious freedom did not have the right to make an appeal as, according to the law, individual applications were not valid.

In recent years, thousands of Muslims have prayed outside the Hagia Sophia to demand it be reopened as a mosque.

In 2015, a cleric recited from the Quran inside the building, for the first time in 85 years. The following year, the state religious authority began hosting and broadcasting spiritual readings from Hagia Sophia during the holy month of Ramadan, and the call to prayer was recited to mark the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Mohammed.