Egypt court acquits 12 lawyers accused of 'spreading false news' on Red Sea island deal

El-Sayed Gamal El-Din , Saturday 4 Feb 2017

The defendants' lawyers argued that they could not be accused of spreading false news because the High Administrative Court ruled the islands in question are indeed Egyptian

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

A Qalyoubiya misdemeanour court acquitted on Saturday 12 lawyers who were accused of “spreading false news” by organising a stand last April against a government deal to transfer two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

The court also acquitted the defendants of charges of illegal gathering and disturbing the peace.

Head of the Lawyers’ Syndicate, Sameh Ashour, who was one of the defendants' lawyers, argued that his clients could not be convicted for spreading false news -- that the islands belonged to Egypt -- because the High Administrative Court already confirmed that they do belong to Egypt.

On 16 January, Egypt’s High Administrative Court rejected a government appeal against a June decision by an administrative court that affirmed Egyptian sovereignty over the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir.

Ashour argued photos of the lawyers at the stand, which took place outside a court building in the city of Shebin El-Qanater, show that they were protesting on the side of the road, and did not block traffic or cause any disturbance as stated in the police report.

He also argued that one of the 12 defendants was traveling in Saudi Arabia at the time of the protest, proving that police’ investigations were inaccurate.

The deal sparked widespread public outcry and a number of street protests after it was initially announced in April 2016.

Most of those arrested in protests were tried on charges of breaking the Protest Law but were eventually acquitted after paying hefty fines

The government has appealed the administrative court’s June decision in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court, which is yet to decide on hearing the case.

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