Two courts in Cairo sentenced over 100 protesters who partook in peaceful demonstrations against the government in April regarding the Red Sea deal with Saudi Arabia, to 5 years in prison.
The 152 protesters were sentenced in a single day series of mass trials on Saturday. Among them, 79 were fined $10 000 each while 72 were tried in absentia.
In April, Egypt handed over two red sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir to the government of Saudi Arabia. This decision by the Egyptian government was met with opposition. The opponents of the deal claimed it was a sell-off for Saudi support.
Some also cited that handing over Egyptian territory was unconstitutional. Exiled politician, Ayman Nour termed it the “giving away of the rights of (Egyptians)”.
He said to The Middle East Eye, “Even the Saudis no longer support Sisi directly. Any support is for the Egyptian nation. If Turkey and Qatar are not so vociferous in their opposition to Sisi any more, it is not because they have given up, but because they know the international tide against him is turning.”
Egyptians took to the streets to protest the giving away of their island but the protest was met with Police hostility. Over 1,000 protesters were arrested for violating a law promulgated in 2013 which bans street protests. While some were released, others were detained and awaited trial.
Egyptian leader, President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi demanded that protests be ceased as he claims the islands rightfully belong to the Saudis.
Who Owns The Red Sea Islands
Rightful ownership of the Tiran and Sanafir islands has been debated for years. They are located at the entrance of the Gulf of Aqaba and had formerly formed the border between the Ottoman Empire and Egypt which was being occupied by Britain at the time. During the Six Day War, the Island was occupied by Israel but was later returned to Egypt after the Camp David Accord was signed.
The Egyptian government therefore believes that considering the Islands are located on Saudi territorial waters, they belong to Saudi Arabia.