New lawsuit calls for injunction to halt transfer of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia

Lawyer Khaled Ali filed a lawsuit with the Court of Administrative Justice (CAJ) on Wednesday to petition the court to halt any action or procedure that would cede Egypt’s control over the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia.

Ali told Mada Masr that the lawsuit challenges the new status of the agreement, which became legally binding when President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ratified it on Saturday, 10 days after a parliamentary vote of approval that was followed by the widespread arrest of opponents to the deal.

“Parliament disregarded the court order annulling the signing of the treaty and gave it a kiss of life, after which Sisi ratified it, thereby making it a law which we seek to annul,” the lawyer said.

The lawsuit calls for an injunction on any government action or procedure to transfer control over Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, including any material or legal actions that affect Egypt’s sovereignty and ownership over the islands. The lawsuit further petitions the court to bar authorities from removing the Egyptian flag and raising the flag of any foreign country on the islands, in addition to suspend the approval, ratification and publication of the agreement in the Egyptian Gazette until judicial challenges are concluded.

The injunction called for in the suit would apply to the president, prime minister, parliamentary speaker and ministers of foreign affairs, interior and defense.

The CAJ has scheduled the first hearing in the case for July 2.

The lawsuit comes days after Sisi ratified the agreement demarcating Egypt’s maritime borders with Saudi Arabia and amid a protracted judicial battle between lawyers opposing the treaty and the Egyptian State Lawsuits Authority, the state’s representative in court. Under the terms of the deal, Saudi Arabia will assume sovereignty over the two islands situated at the entrance of the Gulf of Aqaba.

In June 2016, the CAJ annulled the agreement signed by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail in April of the same year. This was followed by two Court of Urgent Matters rulings on September 29 and December 31 to overturn the CAJ’s decision.

However, on January 16, the State Council’s Supreme Administrative Court upheld the initial June ruling, stating that the deal was a concession of territory, an act that is prohibited per Article 151 of the Constitution. On April 2, the Court of Urgent Matters overturned the CAJ’s decision.

Last Wednesday, the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) temporarily froze all judicial decisions related to the agreement in order to study the case and determine the relevant courts’ jurisdiction, according to a previous statement by former SCC deputy-head Mohamed al-Shennawy. No date has been scheduled for the SCC decision.

Other than the initial lawsuit against the agreement, which ended up in its annulment, Ali has filed two other lawsuits against the agreement, one at the beginning of June for which he put forth a case for the dissolution of Parliament given its decision to discuss an agreement that was annulled by court order in contravention of the Constitution and the law, and the second to address the government’s decision to refer the agreement to Parliament despite the SAC’s ruling annulling it.

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