An Egyptian lawyer has launched an appeal against a recent court ruling which lifted a block on the transfer of two Red Sea islands to the Saudi regime under a controversial deal.
Khaled Ali, a human rights lawyer, argued on Monday that the Higher Administrative Court had the final say and the matter was beyond the jurisdiction of the Court of Urgent Matters, which issued the latest ruling.
Sunday’s verdict “reflects the continued attempts of the regime to circumvent the final ruling of the Higher Administrative Court”, the lawyer said in a statement.
The latest ruling annulled an earlier verdict that had blocked the transfer of the sovereignty of the two islands to Saudi Arabia.
The verdict came just four days after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman held a meeting on the sidelines of an Arab summit in Jordan.
The Sunday ruling would potentially revive the government’s contentious decision, made last April, for putting the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir within the territorial waters of Saudi Arabia, after the bid was blocked by the High Administrative Court back in January 16.
Any such transfer must be also approved by the parliament. The legislators have not voted on the deal yet.
Since its announcement by the government of Sisi, the Cairo-Riyadh controversial maritime re-demarcation has triggered unprecedented protests by the Egyptian public and a large number of lawyers who say the islands are Egyptian. The deal also initiated a lengthy litigation process by both the government and the opponents.
Demonstrators have accused Sisi of surrendering Egyptian territory in return for Saudi money amid reports that Cairo was receiving 20 billion dollars in aid from Riyadh to relinquish the sovereignty of the islands.
Riyadh and Cairo argue that the islands belong to Saudi Arabia and that the Arab kingdom asked Egypt in 1950 to protect them. However, lawyers and opponents say Egypt’s sovereignty over the islands dates back to a 1906 treaty, before Saudi Arabia was even founded.
The uninhabited islands of Tiran and Sanafir lie about four kilometers apart in the Red Sea. They are situated in the narrow entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba leading to Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territories.