Turkey court will leave Hagia Sophia decision to Erdoğan, columnist says

Turkey’s top court will not make a legal ruling on whether to allow Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia museum to be converted into a mosque, Turkish columnist Saygı Öztürk said.

The judges will say that changing the status of the building is a political decision, not a legal one, Öztürk said in the Sözcü newspaper on Wednesday, referring to a similar ruling in 2012.

The Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, will meet on Thursday to consider the request. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called for Islamic prayer to be held at the former Greek Orthodox cathedral and has slammed international opposition to the plan, led by neighbour Greece.

The court will convene for the hearing, which is open to the public, on Thursday but no decision is expected, Öztürk said. The ruling explaining the court’s non-jurisdiction on the matter will be made within 15 days, he said.

Erdoğan’s government is then expected to decide to abolish Hagia Sophia’s status as a museum, Öztürk said.

Turkey will then begin discussing opening a Greek seminary located on an island off Istanbul, a long-standing request of Greece and the European Union, Öztürk said.