Egypt's High Administrative Court rejects govt appeal on Red Sea island deal, confirms Egyptian sovereignty

Ahram Online , Monday 16 Jan 2017

Tiran and Sanafir
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 High Administrative Court upheld on Monday a June decision by an administrative court that affirmed Egyptian sovereignty over the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir, rejecting a government appeal against the lower court ruling.

Today's High Administrative Court's ruling cannot be appealed.

The government had asked the High Administrative Court to overturn the June decision which anulled an April 2016 maritime demarcation agreement between Cairo and Riyadh that would have placed the two islands in the Gulf of Aqaba under Saudi Arabian sovereignty.

The judge who issued the ruling, Ahmed El-Shazly, said in his preamble that “Egypt’s sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir is absolute; the government did not present a document that changes this fact.”

El-Shazly said that the "Egyptian army has never been an occupation force," in reference to previous arguments by government lawyers that suggested Egypt was securing the islands since the 1950s based on a request by the Saudi authorities.

The court has issued a 59-page document explaining its reasons for the verdict, the judge added.

After the ruling was announced, a series of chants broke inside the court session, with opponents of the deal singing the Egyptian national anthem.

On Monday morning, police tightened security measures around the State Council in Dokki, Giza where the court session was held, blocking surrounding roads and allowing only lawyers and journalists with permits access to the proceedings.

Tens of other people who attempted to attend the session to express solidarity with lawyers who filed the case against the deal were not allowed in.

Since the June decision, the government has challenged the ruling before administrative courts, the court for urgent matters and the Supreme Constitutional Court.

In late December, Egypt's State Lawsuits Authority – the body which represents the government in legal cases – won a lawsuit in front of a court for urgent matters to suspend the execution of the June decision.

Earlier in November, an administrative court rejected the government's appeal to suspend the execution of the June ruling and accepted the defence's request to compel the state to execute the June verdict.

The Supreme Constitutional Court has yet to announce whether it would hear a government case.

In December, the cabinet approved the re-demarcation deal and sent it to the parliament for a vote.

The parliament has not voted on the deal yet.

The decision to transfer the two strategic islands at the southern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba to Saudi Arabia has sparked widespread public outcry in the country including several protests.

Dozens of protesters have been arrested and stood trial for demonstrating against the deal without permission; most have been released after paying hefty fines.

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