Egypt’s High Administrative Court postponed on Monday the government appeal against the State Council’s decision to annul the Egyptian-Saudi maritime demarcation deal, which would have seen the sovereignty of the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir transferred to Saudi Arabia, to 16 January for a final verdict.
The court session started with a statement by the government’s defence team, in which they submitted new documents claiming to prove Saudi ownership over the islands. The documents were mainly correspondence between Britain and Saudi Arabia.
Opponents of the deal questioned the validity of the documents and submitted their own documents that allegedly prove Egyptian ownership of the islands. Opposition lawyers demanded the court issue its final verdict.
In Monday’s court session, the government defence said that they had a letter from Saudi Arabia dated 1957 in which they claim ownership over the islands.
Regarding letters between Saudi and Britain, the government’s lawyer said that there are documents in the British archives which prove Saudi Arabia’s ownership. Among these documents was a letter from the permanent mission of Saudi Arabia to the UN, reporting that Saudi Arabia liberated the islands from Israeli occupation. The lawyer said that the archived document affirms Saudi Arabia’s right to the islands.
Moreover, the government’s defence also presented a book written in 1929 from Britain reporting that the islands are not Egyptian.
Commenting on the validity of government documents, opposition lawyer Malek Adly said that these documents do not legally address the situation. He also pointed out that these documents do not contain any Egyptian responses.
Adly also requested the court to exclude all documents submitted by the government, especially those signed by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail. He also noted that some of these documents are taken from a book written by journalist Mostafa Bakry called Tiran and Sanafir are Saudi. The book, he said, was printed by the state.
Adly also said there are crucial documents missing from the case, including a map by the Geographical Association from 1928, before the founding of Saudi Arabia. Adly said that one day prior to the court session lawyer Khaled Ali had gone to the Egyptian National Library and Archives, which refused to provide him with documents that he says supports his claim.
In response, Ali filed a report against the head of the library, saying it was not the first time the library has been uncooperative, he said in a Facebook statement. Ali also said that he has repeatedly complained about the government’s negligence in submitting requested documents.
Following the last court session, Egypt’s State Commissioner’s Authority in the Supreme Administrative Court submitted a report recommending the court reject the state’s appeal against the cancellation of the maritime demarcation deal, saying that it had violated a number of articles and provisions in the Constitution.
In court, Ali said the government had put forth 10 different narratives on Saudi Arabia’s ownership of the islands. He called these narratives inaccurate and unsupported by the appropriate documentation. He also criticised the government for relying on the testimonies of people who have passed away and thus cannot be summoned to testify.
On 8 April the government concluded the demarcation deal with Saudi Arabia during an official visit by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. It sparked widespread discontent among both pro- and anti-government factions in the country, leading to a number of protests and arrests.
Ali, Adly, and other lawyers brought the case to the State Council, and on 21 July the council annulled the agreement. The State Lawsuits Authority immediately appealed the decision.