Turkish court rejects bid to convert Hagia Sophia to mosque

FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 17, 2018 file photo, backdropped by the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul's main tourist attractions, tourists enjoy the plaza in the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul. Turkey's state-run news agency says the country's highest court on Thursday Sept. 13, 2018 has rejected a request for Istanbul's Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia church-turned-mosque-turned-museum to be reconverted into a mosque. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's state-run news agency says the country's highest court has rejected a request for Istanbul's Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia church-turned-mosque-turned-museum to be reconverted into a mosque.

Anadolu Agency said the court rejected the request filed by a religious group on Thursday. Anadolu said it was rejected over a technicality, on grounds that it was filed by an association and not an individual.

The former Byzantine cathedral was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453. Turkey's secular founder turned the structure into a museum in 1935 that attracts millions of tourists each year.

However, there have been increasing calls for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-leaning government to convert the symbolic structure back into a mosque.

Erdogan himself recited prayers inside the Hagia Sophia in March.

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