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Police hold Turkey pope protesters

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ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- A demonstration by about 50 people protesting Pope Benedict XVI's approaching visit to Turkey was broken up by police in Istanbul on Wednesday, CNN Turk reported.

The protest took place at one of Turkey's most revered and historic buildings -- a former church and mosque known as the Hagia Sophia that had been converted into a mosque and then made into a museum.

The site is in a historic section of Istanbul, Turkey's largest city.

Some protesters were detained and taken away and others were held and questioned in the museum garden, CNN Turk said, citing state news sources.

CNN Turk reported the protesters were from the youth movement of a right-wing nationalist party. They recited Muslim prayers and shouted, "God is great."

Pope Benedict plans to stop at the site during his trip -- November 28 to December 1 -- to Turkey, a secular Muslim country that is geographically and culturally part of both Europe and Asia.

The trip comes amid long-standing tensions between the West and the Muslim world, and follows a controversial speech in Germany in which the pope quoted a 14th century emperor who said Prophet Mohammed's teachings are "evil and inhuman."

That speech in mid-September prompted widespread criticism from Muslims. Pope Benedict has made a series of increasingly apologetic statements since then.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced he would not meet with the pontiff during the visit. Erdogan will be at a NATO summit, but some see the move as a snub.

According to the Oxford Dictionary of Islam, the Hagia Sophia was erected by Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 537 and then converted into a mosque in 1453 by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II.

It became a museum under the Turkish Republic in 1935 and is a popular tourist destination.


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