Nikola Tesla portrait
Serbian-American inventor and scientist Nikola TeslaGetty Images

The Serbian Orthodox Church has called for the remains of Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla to be moved from a Belgrade museum as they are becoming the focus for Satanic rituals, according to the city council's president.

Nikola Nikodijevic, president of the Serbian capital's council, told fellow councillors that the Orthodox Church had requested authorities move the remains of the electrical engineer, physicist and inventor from a museum devoted to his life and work to an Orthodox cathedral.

"If you really want me to tell you the truth, this is an initiative by [Patriarch Irinej, spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Serbs], who came to the city council and begged us to remove the ashes as Satanic rituals are taking place in the museum," Nikodijevic told councillors, in a debate on whether a monument should be built to Tesla.

Museum authorities talking to Radio Free Europe dismissed the church's claims, which come amid a long-standing dispute over the remains of the scientist, whose discoveries paved the way for the inventions of X-rays and television.

"I have been working at the museum for more than 20 years. We preserve and take care of everything concerning Tesla. This kind of story has nothing to do with reality," said Nikola Tesla Museum director Branimir Jovanovic.

The spat over where the remains of one of the finest scientific minds of the 20th century should be kept erupted last year, when the Orthodox church called for them to be relocated to the city's Church of Saint Sava, where they would be reburied alongside other heroes from Serbian history.

However the plans were opposed by the museum and scientists, with more than 30,000 joining a Leave Tesla Alone social media campaign calling for the remains to be left where they are.

Tesla was born in Smiljan, in modern-day Croatia, in 1856. He worked with inventor Thomas Edison before the pair fell out in a dispute over the best way to generate electricity.

Famed as much for his showmanship as his scientific brilliance, Tesla died impoverished in New York in 1943. His ashes were repatriated in 1957.