Prominent human rights lawyer Khaled Ali criticised the government’s appeal against the verdict issued by the State Council in the case publicly known as the “Red Sea islands”, during a Wednesday press conference held at the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR).
Amid much political controversy, not only regarding the sovereignty of the islands but also the discreet way in which the government passed the deal, the State Council ruled Tuesday against the borders demarcation agreement, annulling it and affirming Egyptian sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir islands.
“While one of the highest and most reputable judges in a top judicial authority decided that the islands were irreversibly Egyptian land, the government is fighting hard to give up its territory,” Ali commented.
Ali dedicated the conference to display the historical development of Egypt’s handling of the islands. He presented several documents, which he explained “trace the historical developments over decades, showing that the islands were Egyptian and how the Egyptian state handled them during international conflicts”.
“The real cause was not just legal, it was about historical research because of the big fat lie told to the Egyptian and Saudi people that the islands originally belonged to Saudi Arabia, who had asked Egypt to protect them during the war with Israel,” Ali said.
Ali then displayed several documents that he used in court to prove the government wrong. They included a PhD thesis written by Fikry Singer in 1978, supervised by a former minister of parliaments and legal affairs and prominent Mubarak era figure Mofeed Shehab, who then came in defence of the islands deal.
The thesis mentioned the story that the government used in its argument, which claimed there was a letter sent from King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud in 1950 asking Egypt to protect the islands before an Israeli attack.
According to the letter, read out loud by Ali during the conference, the king enquired about the status of the two islands, demanding Egypt act fast to protect them, but in no way stated that the islands were Saudi. “Regardless of whether the islands belong to Saudi Arabia or to Egypt, what matters now is their protection,” is what the letter read by Ali said.
Moreover, there were additional letters exchanged between the Saudi ambassador to Cairo and Saudi Arabia ensuring Egypt’s control over the islands. But according to Ali, before any letters, Egypt took the initiative of raising its flag on Tiran and Sanafir in reaction to an Israeli claim threatening to take them over as they “don’t seem to belong to anyone”.
Furthermore, Ali used a book written by Naoum Shokeir in his research. The book details Egypt’s negotiations with the Ottoman Empire in 1906 in a manner that shows Egyptian sovereignty over the islands. Other documents included an official atlas printed in 1922 by the Egyptian Ministry of Education, another map from an official geographical spaces authority, and a book issued by the Egyptian Ministry of Finance, all of which display the islands as Egyptian.
There was also an atlas issued by Cambridge University in 1940 which marked the islands as Egyptian.
Among the attendees to the conference were journalists Ekram Youssef and Karem Yehya, who was one of those who joined the lawsuit against the maritime borders agreement and asserted that the cause was never to prove whether the islands belonged to Egypt or not. They argued that they were sure of that fact, and that they fought to cancel the islands coming under the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia.
Ali asserted that the State Council’s verdict still must go through the government and that the government is using its right to appeal as the Supreme Administrative Court will have final say in the matter.