red sea islands protest
red sea islands protestReuters

An Egyptian court on Tuesday quashed a maritime deal that transferred two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. The transfer was announced in April by Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi when Saudi Arabia's King Salman visited the nation.

The announcement was met with huge protests and criticism. Citizens took to streets to demonstrate against the president's decision. The deal was challenged in the State Council, an administrative court that deals with cases against the government, following which the deal was quashed on Tuesday, the BBC reported. A rights activist and lawyer Khaled Ali had opposed Sisi's decision.

The verdict by Egypt's State Council said that the two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, would "remain under Egyptian sovereignty."

The state can contest the decision in a higher court. The deal also needs to be ratified by the parliament, Associated Press reported.

The two islands of Tiran and Sanafir lie between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, with strategic access to Jordan and Israel. Egyptian security personnel and multi-national peacekeepers are stationed at the two islands since 1982.

Officials of both Egypt and Saudi Arabia have argued that the islands were under the Egyptian control since 1950 on request from Saudi, and Egypt is returning them their property. However, critics question the deal since Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest supporters of Sisi.

Civilians had also taken to the streets in April after the deal was announced. More than 150 people were arrested in connection with the protests. However, most have been freed or their jail terms have been reduced, the BBC reported.