Amid chants from attendees and activists in the court room, the Supreme Administrative Court on Sunday postponed the appeal case of Tiran and Sanafir islands to 3 July, after the plaintiffs called for the judging panel to step down, due to the possible intervention of the executive branch in the judiciary.
Lawyer Mohamed Adel, one of the plaintiffs, asked the court to step down in protest to the claimed intervention of the executive branch in the case, after statements and mobilisations by Minister of Parliamentary and Legal Affairs Magdy El–Agaty and assistant to the Minister of Defence General Mamdouh Shahin.
Adel said that demanding the court to step down is not a sign of distrust, but an effort to make the court bypass any “embarrassment”.
Osman Al-Hefnawy, one of the plaintiffs, told Daily News Egypt that the court will look into the demand. If accepted, the case will be transferred to another court. If refused, then it will have to issue a verdict in the case.
The refusal scenario, Al-Hefnawy added, will most likely be an “executive decision”.
After Adel presented his demand, the judging panel withdrew from the session. Minutes later, plaintiff lawyer Khaled Ali told journalists that he was informed that the session was postponed.
A judicial source told Daily News Egypt that if the court has two options: either to accept Adel’s demand, declare the “non-specialisation” of the Supreme Administrative Court, and move the case to the Supreme Constitutional Court, or to accept the previous verdict entailing that the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Egypt is annulled.
The State Lawsuit Authority (SLA) provided documents and official letters between Saudi Arabian and Egyptian officials, showing that the former had asked Egypt to “occupy” the islands in order to secure them “until the region is stable”.
The lawyer added that Saudi Arabia had the right to regain sovereignty over the islands, after it asked Egyptian authorities to protect them from Israel.
“The return of the islands to Saudi Arabia is not the work of the current government. This was discussed and agreed upon in former governments,” he added.
During the hearing, Ali said that “we are here to search for the truth, the truth of every drop of blood spilt on this land. Was it Saudi Arabian or Egyptian? Historical facts are the only answer to this conflict, not different points of view. There are those who hide documents from the court and the people. We are going to present historical, geographical, and military facts, along with evidence and documents released from Egyptian institutions.”
Unlike previous trial sessions looking into the case, court security tightened their grip on media personnel covering the session through registration paperwork. It also made journalists write vows not to take pictures outside of the court venue.
The court obstructed journalists with cameras from covering the session, asking for permissions and paperwork. Journalists lined up in front of the administrative offices at the State Council, waiting for the issuance of the papers. Security from the court instructed media personnel to stay in the first floor of the court, and to remain seated until they had the permissions.
Up until Sunday afternoon, the State Council had not decided on a courthouse to hold the session. Confused by various statements, the journalists and plaintiffs kept moving between venues based on official orders, until the session was held.
The session witnessed heavy chanting by activists who attended the session in solidarity, such as ”The islands are Egyptian”, “We don’t want the Saudi Bridge”, and “Malek Adly is free”.
Last week’s verdict was a shock to the government, which coldly reacted to the decision by vowing to appeal the case and arguing that the Administrative Court lacks specialisation to rule in the case.
Meanwhile, several members of parliament said in media statements that after the verdict, Saudi Arabia can go the International Court of Justice to demand sovereignty over the islands.
In an interview on Egyptian state TV, parliamentary speaker Ali Abdul Aal asked everyone who has documents proving that the islands belong to Egypt to hand them over to the authorities.