Cairo, Apr 2 (AFP) An Egyptian court today issued a new ruling in support of a government accord to transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, a deal that has sparked protests, lawyers said.

In the latest in a series of contradictory judicial rulings on the case, the urgent matters court in Cairo followed a verdict by Egypt’s highest administrative court that went against the islands’ transfer.

Saudi Arabia has been a main financial backer of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi since the former army chief toppled his Islamist predecessor in 2013.

The deal to hand over the islands, signed during an April 2016 visit by Saudi King Salman during which Riyadh showered Egypt with aid, provoked accusations that Cairo had “sold” the strategic islands.

Cairo said the two islands – Tiran and Sanafir – were Saudi territory to start with, but had been leased to Egypt in the 1950s.

The accord has sparked street protests and a legal battle between the government, which insists along with Sisi that the islands are Saudi, and lawyers opposed to the measure.

The urgent matters court ruled “in favour of disregarding the ruling of the high administrative court,” as “the judiciary doesn’t have the authority to interfere with matters of sovereignty”, said Ashraf Farahat, the lawyer who filed the latest lawsuit.

Khaled Ali, a lawyer who argued in the administrative court that the islands belonged to Egypt, said Sunday’s verdict aimed to give the government “judicial cover” as it pushes to hand over the territory.

“They are trying to forge false legitimacy through a court lacking competence to justify presenting the agreement to parliament,” Ali told AFP.

Tarek el-Khouli secretary of parliament’s foreign relations committee, said the government has submitted the case to the house but debates have yet to start.

“We are now in front of two contradictory rulings. With this contradiction, in my opinion, this matter should be settled by the supreme constitutional court,” said Khouli.

(AFP)

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.