Egyptian Court Blocks the Annulment of Tiran And Sanafir Islands Deal

(FILE) A picture taken on January 14, 2014 through the window of an airplane shows the Red Sea's Tiran (foreground) and the Sanafir (background) islands in the Strait of Tiran between Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia. Saudi King Salman on April 11, 2016 wrapped up a landmark five-day visit to Egypt marked by lavish praise and multi-billion-dollar investment deals, in a clear sign of support for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's regime. Egypt also agreed during the visit to demarcate its maritime borders with Saudi by officially placing the two islands in the Straits of Tiran in Saudi territory. / AFP / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

Egypt’s Court of Urgent Matters has halted the implementation of an administrative court ruling that annulled a deal to hand over Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia, judicial sources, reported Reuters.

Egypt announced in April a maritime border accord with Saudi Arabia, which could see it lose control of two Red Sea islands.

The controversial agreement that gave away the two strategic islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia has led to massive criticism and outrage among the Egyptians.

Critics, journalists, and activists accused Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of “selling Egypt” to Saudi Arabia in return for financial aid.

In response, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in protests on April 15 (Land Day) and April 25 (Sinai Liberation Day) against the agreement, calling for the “Downfall of the Regime.”

The demonstrations were the first huge movement against the al-Sisi regime that included different political affiliations and groups. The Egyptian security forces led arrest campaigns of activists and journalists who opposed the transfer of the islands.

The Egyptian courts have fined tens of the protesters while others were handed down prison sentences that ranged from two to five years. In addition, a court sentenced seven defendants to eight years in prison each and fined them.

On June 20, 2016, Egypt Administrative Court ruled the invalidity of the controversial demarcation agreement that stipulates the transfer of Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia.

A number of lawsuits were filed in an attempt to nullify the agreement. administrative court voided the accord in June after a lawsuit was filed against it, saying Egyptian sovereignty over the islands held and could not be given up.

In response, Egyptian authorities lodged a formal appeal with the Higher Administrative Court, part of the Council of State, a high-level judicial body that gives legal advice to the government, drafts laws and oversees legal cases involving public entities.

That appeal is still pending.

However, Court of Urgent Matters ruled on a separate appeal filed by Ashraf Farahat, a lawyer. But legal experts dismissed that court’s ruling, saying it was not qualified to pronounce on matters related to public administration.

Ali Ayoub, one of the lawyers who challenged the agreement, said he would appeal the latest court ruling, calling it “politically instigated” as reported by Bloomberg.

Last April, al-Sisi defended the agreement in a televised speech, saying that “Egypt does not sell its land to anyone and it does not take anyone’s land.” Moreover, the Egyptian cabinet assured in a statement that the strategic islands are Saudi, adding that Saudi Arabia requested Egypt to protect them in 1950, and they have been under Egypt’s control since then.