Egypt jails protesters against Saudi Island deal

Egyptians shout slogans against Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi during a protest against the decision to hand over control of two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia in front of the Press Syndicate, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, April 15, 2016. Graffiti on the walls at background showing from left Tamer Abdel Raouf, Mayada Ashraf and Al-Housseiny Abu Daif, journalists were killed during and following 2011 uprising. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Egypt has sentenced 51 people to two years each in prison for protesting against a decision last month to cede two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

There were 33 defendants present in the Cairo courtroom to hear the verdicts, while the rest were out on bail.

Family and friends of the defendants cried in shock outside the courthouse.

The decision to hand over the islands to Saudi Arabia sparked a backlash among many Egyptians.

Red Sea islands to be ceded to Saudi Arabia.
Red Sea islands to be ceded to Saudi Arabia.

It was made by Egyptian president, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi during a rare visit by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, during which the Saudi king announced plans for aid and investment in Egypt.

Critics say President Sisi “sold” the uninhabited islands, Tiran and Sanafir, in return for the investments.

But the Egyptian government maintains that the islands always belonged to Saudi Arabia and were only being looked after by Egypt since the 1950s.

Both secular and Islamist activists called for people to demonstrate against the transfer of the islands.

Police dispersed the protests in April, arresting dozens of people, many of whom were later charged with participation in illegal rallies.

Mr Sisi has faced increasing criticism in recent months on a range of issues, including Egypt’s lacklustre economy.

The president, a former army general, previously enjoyed broad support after winning the election in 2014, but has faced increasing discontent.