Egyptian publisher and bookseller Khaled Lotfy has lost his appeal against his five-year prison sentence in Cairo and now only a presidential pardon can save him.
Lotfy has been on trial in Egypt’s Military Court of Cassation (meaning annulment by a higher authority) since 2018 for publishing and selling an Egyptian edition of Uri Bar Joseph’s The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel even though the book was originally translated into Arabic by the Lebanon-based Arab Scientific Publishers and had been available in Egypt as a relatively expensive import. It was also turned into a successful Netflix film under the title The Angel, and is available internationally, including in Egypt. Lofty was accused by the court of having “divulged military secrets”.
The book, by Israeli writer Uri Bar-Joseph, portrays Ashraf Marwan, the son-in-law of former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, as a spy for the Jewish state.
Lotfy received the Prix Voltaire, the International Publishers Association (IPA) Freedom to Publish prize, last year. Commenting on the court’s ruling, Kristenn Einarsson, Chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee said: “It is incomprehensible that Khaled Lotfy can be imprisoned, not only for publishing a book, but for publishing a new version of a book that was already available. His only chance of freedom is a Presidential pardon, and we implore President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to release Khaled so that he can be reunited with his family.”
Lofty’s Tanmia Bookshop opened in 2011 and later launched its highly respected publishing house which published a number of acclaimed authors in translation as well as original works in Arabic, including a children’s book version of Mahmoud Darwish’s poem “Think of Others,” which won an Etisalat Prize for Arabic Children’s Literature.
Speaking at the IPA General Assembly in Frankfurt in 2019 Lofty’s brother Mahmoud read out a message from his sibling: “Since nearly two years my life, the life of my family, of all the people around me and everyone who loves me has stopped for no reason. I wish for an end to that. I want to see “Tanmia” and my young girls grow up together at the same time. I want to get out of here.”