Egyptian court suspends Administrative Court verdict over Tiran and Sanafir

El-Sayed Gamal El-Din , Thursday 29 Sep 2016

The Court for Urgent Matters accepted an appeal against the verdict to void the Egypt-Saudi island deal

The islands of Tiran (forefront) and Sanafir (further back) (Photo: AFP)

A Cairo Court for Urgent Matters accepted on Thursday a challenge against the Administrative Court verdict issued in June that asserted Egyptian sovereignty over the two Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir.

According to Thursday's rulling, the Administrative Court's verdict will be suspended. 

ِAshraf Farahat is one of the lawyers who challenged the June ruling that nullified the maritime deal between Egypt and Saudi Arabia over the two islands, claiming that the agreement is one of the country's sovereignty matters, which falls outside the Administrative Court's jurisdiction.

The government agreed in April to place both islands under Saudi Arabian sovereignty, arguing that they had always belonged to the oil-rich Arab country and Egypt was merely administering them on behalf of the Saudis since the 1950s. 

A number of lawyers, including prominent rights lawyer Khaled Ali, had filed a lawsuit with Egypt's Administrative Court at the State Council arguing that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and parliamentary speaker Ali Abdel-Al had wrongfully waivered Egyptian sovereignty over the two islands.

Egypt's State Lawsuits Authority – the body that represents the government in legal cases – also appealed the Administrative Court verdict before the Supreme Constitutional Court, which is yet to issue a ruling.

Article 190 from Egypt's current constitution stipulates that the state council is exclusively competent to adjudicate in administrative disputes, disciplinary cases and appeals, and disputes pertaining to its decisions. The administrative court is part of Egypt's state council.

In late August, the High Administrative Court accepted a recusal request of the panel reviewing a government appeal presented by lawyers opposed to the deal.

Ali, who filed the recusal request, cited alleged interference of the executive authority with the judiciary.

On Thursday afternoon, lawyer Khaled Ali and his team announced that they would challenge the urgent matters court ruling on Saturday, stating that it was not from its jurisdiction to have a word in cases related to the administrative court and state council.

"We will take all the legal procedures to cancel the urgent matters court's ruling which violated article 190 from the constitution," Ali wrote on his official Facebook page.

The maritime border demarcation agreement, signed during Saudi King Salman's historic visit to Egypt in April, is yet to be presented to parliament.

In a long interview with state-owned newspapers in late August, President El-Sisi talked about the controversy over the agreement, saying that he was dealing with the issue "with complete respect for the state's institutions and the independence of its judiciary and its verdicts."

El-Sisi stressed that parliament will have a chance to look into the agreement.

The decision to transfer the two strategic islands at the southern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba to Saudi Arabia sparked widespread public outcry in the country, with many public figures arguing the islands were rightfully Egyptian territory.

Dozens of people were arrested and put on trial for protesting the deal, but many of them have been already released after paying hefty fines.


*This story has been corrected after initially referring to the challenge filed by lawyers as a governmental appeal


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