Police clash with Egyptians celebrating ruling on islands

January 17, 2017 7:10 pm
Scuffles have erupted between Egyptian police and protesters celebrating a top court’s final ruling against the government’s decision to transfer sovereignty of two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. 
On Monday, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled against an appeal by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government and said the islands of Tiran and Sanafir are Egyptian and should not be transferred to Riyadh’s control.
Celebrations erupted over the ruling outside the court in Cairo, with human rights lawyer Khaled Ali who along with Malek Adly led the legal challenge to the government’s plan leading them.
The celebrations, however, turned violent when rallying demonstrators scuffled with police and several arrests were reported.
Sisi announced on April 9, 2016 that the two islands fall within the territorial waters of Saudi Arabia as stipulated in a border accord signed between Cairo and Riyadh the previous day.
The deal triggered unprecedented mass demonstrations, with protesters slamming the arrangement as unconstitutional. A number of lawyers meanwhile filed a lawsuit in the administrative court to block the deal.
Demonstrators have accused Sisi of surrendering Egyptian territory in return for Saudi money amid reports that Cairo was receiving 20 billion dollars in aid from Riyadh to relinquish sovereignty of the islands. Egyptian courts have given jail terms to hundreds of protesters.

Egyptian children celebrate with a national flag with the words “Tiran” and “Sanafir” on it after the Supreme Administrative Court ruled against handing over the two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. (Photo by AFP) 

Back in June 2016, a lower administrative court rejected the agreement, prompting the country’s State Lawsuits Authority, representing the Sisi government in legal cases, to lodge an appeal.
Late last month, the Cairo government endorsed the contentious maritime border agreement in defiance of the June 2016 ruling and sent it to the parliament for ratification. The Monday’s ruling is final and could not be appealed again.
Riyadh and Cairo argue that the islands belong to Saudi Arabia and that the Arab kingdom had asked in 1950 to protect them. However, lawyers and opponents say ’s sovereignty over the islands dates back to a 1906 treaty, before Saudi Arabia was founded.
The uninhabited islands of Tiran and Sanafir lie about four kilometers apart in the Red Sea. They are situated in the narrow entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba leading to Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territories.
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