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Azerbaijan Stops Mosque Demolition After Warning From Iranian Cleric

A court ruled last year that the Fatimeyi-Zahra mosque was illegally built
A court ruled last year that the Fatimeyi-Zahra mosque was illegally built
BAKU -- Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has ruled that the controversial Fatimeyi-Zahra Mosque on the outskirts of Baku will be subordinated to the country's leading religious authority, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Aliyev's ruling on May 14 means control of the mosque will go to the Muslim Spiritual Board of the Caucasus, preventing its demolition.

A district court ruled one year ago that the mosque was built illegally and ordered its demolition. The Supreme Court upheld that ruling.

But Azerbaijan's top Muslim cleric, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allakhshukur Pashazade, appealed to Aliyev to accede to Muslim appeals not to demolish the mosque.

On May 12, Iranian Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi threatened to issue a fatwa against Azerbaijani officials if the mosque was destroyed. The "Tehran Times" quoted him as saying that a warning had been sent to the Azerbaijani leadership.

Azerbaijan's State Committee for Work With Religious Structures on May 13 branded the ayatollah's statement as "slanderous" and "inconsistent with the image of a religious leader." It reaffirmed that the rulings that the mosque should be demolished were handed down by the courts and cannot be described as political.

Two allegedly illegally built mosques in Baku were demolished last year and a third one was closed.