A picture taken on January 14, 2014 through the window of an airplane shows the Red Sea's Tiran (foreground) and the Sanafir (background) islands in the Straits of Tiran between Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia (AFP)
Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court has set 26 June to hear the government's appeal against a ruling earlier this week that quashed a decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, a lawyer said.
The controversial maritime demarcation deal was announced by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in April during a visit to Cairo by Saudi King Salman.
An administrative court Tuesday "cancelled the signing" of the deal that put the islands of Tiran and Sanafir, long believed to have belonged to Egypt, in Saudi waters. The court said the two islands remain "Egyptian."
The State Lawsuits Authority – the body representing the government in legal cases – was prompt to appeal the verdict hours later, and a higher administrative court decided Thursday to set Sunday for hearing the appeal.
"The Supreme Administrative [Court] set Sunday, 26 June, to look at ... the government's request to stop upholding the ruling that annulled the deal," rights lawyer Khaled Ali, who brought the case against the deal, said on Facebook.
Egypt’s decision to transfer the two strategic islands at the southern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba into Saudi hands sparked widespread public outcry, with some critics accusing the government of "selling the islands."
Dozens of youths were arrested and put on trial for protesting against the deal; many have been recently released, however.
Egypt insists the islands belong to Saudi Arabia and that the government merely administered them while on lease from Saudi Arabia since the 1950s.
Evidence presented by Ali to the court included a 1917 book, a 1914 map and a 1940 Cambridge University atlas, all referring to the two islands as Egyptian.