Court suspends block on Egypt's Red Sea island deal

Court suspends block on Egypt's Red Sea island deal
Egypt's controversial transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia ownership looks to go ahead as planned, despite protests, as a court blocked a previous ruling on the handover.
2 min read
29 September, 2016
The controversial April announcement to hand over the islands sparked protests in Cairo [AFP]
An Egyptian court blocked a previous ruling freezing the controversial transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia on Thursday, which had provoked protests when announced earlier this year.

The urgent matters court issued an injunction against the freeze made by the administrative court in June, which had overturned a maritime border agreement signed during a visit to Cairo by Saudi Arabia's King Salman and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, giving the two islands to Riyadh.

The ruling essentially gives the government the green light for the transfer of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi custody to go ahead.

But Khaled Ali, the lawyer who had initially demanded the transfer be blocked, said on Thursday that the urgent matters court had no jurisdiction in this case.

"Only the highest administrative court can suspend the implementation of an administrative court's verdict," Ali told AFP.

Mohamed Nour Farahat, a law professor at Zagazig University, shared Ali's opinion.

But he said the government may try to use the ruling to put the transfer deal to a vote in parliament, predicting "a confrontation between powers".

The deal prompted accusations that Sisi had "sold" the islands in return for Saudi investments and led to protests in Cairo.

The government said it would appeal the administrative court's decision in June, and suggested the islands originally belonged to the kingdom but were leased to Egypt for protection in the 1950s.

The court does not rule on the substance of a case, and its decisions can be appealed.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia is one of the main regional backers of Sisi a former army chief who has overseen a crackdown on the opposition since ousting his predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013.