Egypt administrative court rejects government appeal over Red Sea islands deal

Ahram Online , Tuesday 8 Nov 2016

File photo of the islands of Tiran (forefront) and Sanafir (further back) (Photo: AFP)

An administrative court rejected on Tuesday the government's appeal against a June 2016 court ruling that voided an earlier agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia which put the two Red Sea Islands of Tiran and Sanafir off the coast of South Sinai under Saudi sovereignty.

In April, Egypt's government signed an agreement to place both islands under Saudi Arabian sovereignty, saying that they had always belonged to the oil-rich Arab country and that Egypt had been merely administering them on behalf of the kingdom since the 1950s.

A number of lawyers, including rights lawyer Khaled Ali, had filed a lawsuit with Egypt's Administrative Court at the State Council, receiving in June a ruling that nullified the maritime deal between Cairo and Riyadh.

On Tuesday, the court issued a verdict on two separate motions by the government and the defence. First, the judges rejected the government's request to suspend the execution of the June ruling, and fined it EGP 800. Second, the court accepted a request filed by Ali and defence lawyers to compel the state to execute the June verdict.

Today's ruling is not a final verdict on the status of the two islands, as the High Administrative Court and Supreme Constitutional Court, the country's highest court, are hearing various cases in the dispute.

The government, represented by the State Lawsuits Authority, appealed June's administrative court verdict before the High Administrative Court and Supreme Constitutional Court.

The High Administrative Court's next session to continue hearings into the government's appeals is scheduled for 5 December.

In late September, the Court for Urgent Matters accepted a government challenge to the jurisdiction of administrative courts over issues of sovereignty, and voided the June decision.

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.

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

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