The administrative court at the State Council adjourned on Tuesday the session on the lawsuit to abolish the Egyptian–Saudi maritime demarcation agreement which transferred sovereignty of Tiran and Sanfir islands to Saudi Arabia to 7 June.
The lawsuit was filed by prominent rights lawyers Khalid Ali and Tarek Al-Awady, as well as the now jailed Malek Adly, who were joined in the court room by other lawyers who demanded to be added as plaintiffs in the case along with dozens of citizens who attended the session as contestants.
Lawyer Ali Ayoub kicked off the plaintiffs arguments, pointing out that the cabinet’s decree which announced the agreement contradicts Article 151 of the Constitution, which according to him prohibits the signing of agreements that includes giving away Egyptian land.
Ayoub added that it is not clear if the aforementioned islands are the only lands to be given away.
The Constitution article reads: “the president of the republic shall represent the state in foreign relations and shall conclude treaties and ratify them after approval from parliament.”
However, it also stipulates that: “treaties of peace, alliance, and all treaties related to the rights of sovereignty must be put to a public referendum and cannot be ratified until after the results of the referendum are announced. In all cases, no treaty shall be approved that contradicts the provisions of the constitution or that results in a waiver of any part of the territory of the state.”
Al-Awady echoed the point Ayoub was making by insisting that the Constitution’s first article confirms that the state is inalienable. He argued that sovereignty over the islands has been disputed between Egypt and Saudi Arabia while the government was trying to promote the islands belonging to the latter.
He also demanded the court to oblige the government to present the text of the demarcation agreement and the maps attached to it.
Khaled Ali said that he had written to the president and ministers of defence, foreign affairs, and interior to stall any acts of ceding the islands before resolving the dispute over them.
He asserted that the dispute in the lawsuit is primarily over whether signing the agreement is an act of sovereignty that is the right of the government, which the plaintiffs contest. He also addressed the same demand to the court.
“Acts of sovereignty are not defined, and the court is entitled to define them,” he said.
Malek Adly, one of the three lawyers who originally filed the lawsuit, did not attend the session as he was arrested on 5 May on charges of attempting to overthrow the regime, spreading false rumours, and inciting demonstrations among other charges.
The lawyers attending on behalf of the plaintiffs asserted to the court that Adly was arrested for advocating the case of Egypt’s sovereignty over the islands along with dozens of young people.
“I ask the court to oblige the minister of interior to enable Malek Adly to attend the next session of the trial and present his arguments,” Ali said.
The lawyer presented to the court, among the files of the case, an atlas issued by the Ministry of Defence in 2007 that confirms the islands are under Egyptian sovereignty.
Ali said the government is trying to impose a state of silence over society: “the Egyptian people will not stay silent, the judiciary is the only authority entitled to counter the state’s assault on the powers of the people.”
Representatives of the State Lawsuit Authority argued the court is not entitled to rule over the lawsuit and not accepting the lawsuit as the demarcation agreement is yet to be approved by parliament, hence no administrative decree is finalised yet.
The court adjourned the trial as it ordered the state to present documents and maps of the agreement and also adding new contestants to the lawsuit upon request from the lawyers.
The session was attended by public figures such as former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabahy and Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh as well as politicians such as Al-Dostour party’s Khaled Dawuod, the Popular Current’s Ma’asoum Marzouk and the Socialist Popular Alliance party’s Medhat Al-Zahed who came to show support for the lawsuit against the government.
Marzouk told Daily News Egypt that the subject matter of the lawsuit is related to history and to the Egyptians. He believes the State Council is “the fortress for freedoms and rights of the Egyptian people”.
“[The islands] were never Saudi. There is no evidence that they were,” he asserted.