Case to determine sovereignty of Tiran and Sanafir islands adjourned to December 19

Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court adjourned on Monday the case to determine sovereignty of Tiran and Sanafir islands to December 19, to allow time for all parties to review a report by the State Commissioners Authority (SCA) on the case.

The SCA recommended the court rejects the government’s appeal against a prior ruling designating the two Red Sea islands as Egyptian. “The treaty in question, which resulted in giving up the sovereignty of Egyptian land, is as null and void as the party that signed it violated the constitution,” the SCA report states.

Monday’s session was the first to be aired live on television since the case was taken to court.

The Egyptian government determined in April to hand sovereignty of Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia, during the visit of Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz to Egypt. The deal sparked outrage in Egypt, and led to the largest protest movement since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was elected in 2014. A number of political activists and rights lawyers were detained and sentenced, before being released at a later date.

Several lawyers, led by rights lawyer Khalid Ali, appealed the deal in front of the Administrative Court, which ruled that the two islands are Egyptian. The Egyptian government, however, appealed this decision before the Supreme Administrative Court, which is now examining the case.

During Monday’s session, a government representative presented a number of documents indicating the two islands are under Saudi jurisdiction, including a letter from the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the king of Saudi Arabia in 1990, claiming the Egyptian Cabinet gave the islands to the Gulf country.

Lawyers supporting Egyptian sovereignty over the islands also presented a number of documents in support of their case, demanding the court make a final decision. “We have submitted everything proving the seriousness of our appeal since June 26 — over 50 documents, as well as two legal memos. As a result, the court has enough evidence to issue its final decision,” a lawyer for the defense of Egyptian sovereignty over the islands said.

“The state said Egypt has had the right to manage the two islands since 1950, so where is the treaty declaring this? Khaled Ali asked, querying seemingly contradictory statements from the government’s lawyer, and adding, “Later on, we were told Saudi Arabia gave up the two islands for 90 years — where is the treaty proving that? Is this a case of giving up, or the right to manage?”

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