CAIRO: The Ismailia Criminal Court argued against foreign ownership of land and property in Sinai during a verdict it handed out in a case regarding the issue over foreign ownership of property in Sharm El-Sheikh last week.
The case involved forgery of documentation to sell housing units in the resort of Coral Bay to foreign buyers. Two defendants were found guilty and the rest exonerated.
Yet the court used the ruling it issued to expound on the threat of “foreign invasion” through ownership of land and property in Sinai. The court said in its ruling that “the foreign invasion has come in a new guise we have not seen before.”
This ‘invasion’ “hides under the current laws to rape this precious and dear part of the country” the statement continued. There is no current law in Egyptian legislation that prohibits foreign ownership of property in Sinai.
As such, the court urged for an amendment to Law 230 of 1996 that governs the sale or property in Sinai to clarify the prohibition of selling any properties in the peninsula to foreign buyers.
Yet ownership in Sinai is a convoluted legal area due to the special nature of the peninsula and the circumstances in which it was retrieved from Israeli occupation. Its borders are governed by the Camp David Peace Accords signed between Egypt and Israel in 1979.
Additionally, the state does not officially recognize the ownership of local residents in Sinai over their property, a point of contention residents have been talking about for decades.
Secretary General of the Tagammu party in North Sinai Ashraf El Hefny told Daily News Egypt that it is the local residents’ rights that should be on the front burner of any legislative decisions regarding property ownership in Sinai.
“Support for the ownership of residents in Sinai is what’s needed,” he said, “unfortunately this is not a government that can be counted on and no one is monitoring it.”
As for foreign ownership he argued that “the government will do what it wants [in that regard]. The president has constitutional powers which enable him to grant lands to foreigners in Sinai if he so chooses.”
The court argued that laws that prevent the complete possession of agricultural and desert lands by foreigners (introduced in 1981) should be expanded to include Sinai. Arabs are exempted from the 1981 law under special conditions.
The court called for new legislation to explicitly prohibit foreign ownership in all of Sinai. South Sinai is attractive for foreign investors due to its tourist nature and there are large swathes of land ripe for that sort of development.