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Court quashes Red Sea islands’ transfer to Saudi

Published : Jun 22, 2016, 2:41 am IST
Updated : Jun 22, 2016, 2:41 am IST

An Egyptian court on Tuesday quashed a government decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, judicial sources said, overruling a deal that had sparked public outrage.

An Egyptian court on Tuesday quashed a government decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, judicial sources said, overruling a deal that had sparked public outrage.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced the controversial accord in April during a visit to Cairo by Saudi King Salman.

A judge told AFP that the decision by the State Council — Egypt’s highest administrative court — “cancels the signing” of the deal, which put two islands in the Straits of Tiran under Riyadh’s control.

The verdict stressed that the Tiran and Sanafir islands remain “Egyptian”, said the judge who could not be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Lawyer Khaled Ali, a leftist Opposition figure who brought the case, told AFP the court’s decision “shows that the two territories are Egyptian... and cannot be given away”.

The government will appeal the ruling, said the minister of legal and parliamentarian affairs, Magdy al-Agaty.

The handover prompted an outcry from many Egyptians, and sparked protests against Mr Sisi.

More than 100 people were jailed for up to five years for taking part in demonstrations that police quickly dispersed, but they were later freed on appeal.

The police had also made scores of arrests in the lead-up to the protests to discourage a repeat of a large rally on April 15.

Saudi Arabia is one of the main regional backers of the government of Mr Sisi, who has overseen a crackdown on all forms of opposition since ousting his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The oil-rich kingdom has provided Cairo with billions of dollars in aid and investment to help Egypt’s battered economy since Mr Sisi, a former army chief, took power.

Critics of the government accused Mr Sisi of “selling” the islands in return for securing multi-billion-dollar investment deals from Saudi Arabia during Salman’s visit.

Location: Egypt, Kairo, Cairo