Egypt court quashes Red Sea islands’ transfer to Saudis
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An Egyptian judge has quashed a government decision to hand … two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.
Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi announced the return of Tiran and Sanafir islands in April, during a visit by Saudi Arabia‘s King Salman.
More than 150 people were jailed in connection with protests over the deal …
Tuesday’s verdict is not final and could be overturned by a higher court.
Tiran and Sanafir are uninhabited islands, situated at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, a strategically important part of the Red Sea that is bordered by Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
President Sisi‘s decision in April to cede control of them sparked widespread unrest and criticism. King Salman had announced a multi-billion dollar aid package to Egypt from Saudi Arabia on his visit, leading some to accuse Mr Sisi of “selling” the islands.
On Tuesday, Egypt’s State Council, an administrative court which oversees lawsuits filed against the government, quashed Mr Sisi’s decision by issuing a verdict annulling a maritime borders agreement.
Cheers in court: By Sally Nabil, BBC News
The maritime border agreement signed earlier this year between Egypt and Saudi Arabia took many Egyptians by surprise.
Since then, protesters have taken to the streets calling the arrangement unconstitutional, and accusing the government of giving away Egyptian territories in return for aid packages and investments worth billions of dollars from Saudi Arabia, a strong backer of President Sisi.
Some of these protesters were arrested and charged with disrupting public order. A few are still behind bars.
The lawsuit was filed by a number of prominent human rights lawyers, headed by a former presidential candidate, Khaled Ali.
When the verdict was issued, many cheered inside the courtroom, chanting “the islands are Egyptian”. But the legal battle has not come to an end yet, because the decision can be appealed.
The verdict stated that the two islands would “remain under Egyptian sovereignty”.
If it is approved by the country’s High Administrative Court it will become legally binding.
Mr Sisi has cracked down on all dissent since leading the military’s overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.
Since then, more than 1,000 people have been killed and 40,000 are believed to have been jailed …