The Administrative Court accepted a request submitted by plaintiffs to replace the judicial panel that is ruling in the appeal submitted by the government against the State Council’s decision confirming Egypt’s sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir in the ‘Red Sea islands’ case.
The decision came after a months-long battle between lawyers and the Egyptian government over Egypt’s decision to transfer the sovereignty of Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia.
The lawyer who submitted the request, Adel Soliman, told Daily News Egypt that the court accepted the decision to replace the judges because the demand is ”incredibly serious and logical”.
Among the reasons Soliman listed for his demand, is the relationship between members of the judicial panel and the government, which is the defendant in the case. One member of the panel, Fawzy Abdel Rady, is a delegate of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, which is already a defendant in the case.
The lawsuit, which was previously filed to cancel the demarcation deal, was submitted to court against the president, the interior and foreign affairs ministries, and the Egyptian government as a whole.
A new judicial plan has not yet been suggested. Soliman has no expectations as to how the case will proceed following this decision, but he believes that the replacement of the panel was necessary for this particular case.
His reasoning for the lawsuit also cited statements made by Minister of Parliamentary and Legal Affairs Magdy El-Agaty about the case. The minister said he wished the court would accept the appeal on the verdict and issue its decision soon. This was considered interference by the executive power in the judiciary.
Soliman added: “The case was proceeding quickly which was illogical—how could such a significant case hold two court sessions in one week?”
Moreover, the head judge of the panel will be retiring at the end of August. It is unclear how a judge can rule on a case that he will leave to another judge within a few weeks, according to Soliman.
Further, it was reported that a meeting was arranged between major general Mamdouh Shaheen and the head of the State Council, which raised questions on the reason for the visit.
The State Council previously cancelled the maritime demarcation deal between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, confirming that the two Red Sea islands belonged to Egypt. This implicates that if Egypt’s sovereignty is affirmed by the High Administrative Court, the decision will be legally binding.
However, a few hours after the State Council decision, the government immediately appealed the verdict, stating that the islands were originally in Saudi Arabia’s territory and were only handed over to Egypt for protection during the country’s war with Israel.
The transfer of the islands to Saudi proved to be hugely controversial among intellectuals, public figures, social media users and activists, as well as both anti-government and pro-government citizens.