The Supreme Military Appeals Court on Tuesday upheld a five-year prison sentence against publisher Khaled Lotfy on charges of publishing false news and divulging military secrets for distributing an Arabic translation of a book by an Israeli author, according to his brother Mahmoud Lotfy. The verdict, from the highest appeals court in the military justice system, is final and cannot be appealed.
Lotfy, the founder of Tanmia Bookstores in Cairo, was arrested in April 2018 and sentenced to five years in prison by a military court in October 2018.
The book in question, The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel, by Israeli author Uri Bar-Joseph, profiles Ashraf Marwan – former President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s son-in-law and a close advisor to former President Anwar Sadat – and alleges that he spied on Egypt for Israel. Egyptian authorities have long denied claims that Marwan betrayed his country and hail him as a hero, with former President Hosni Mubarak issuing a statement upon his death in 2007 saying, “I do not doubt his loyalty.”
The book was originally published in Arabic by the Lebanon-based Arab Scientific Publishers.
Lotfy’s arrest and imprisonment sparked an outcry by writers, publishers, and human rights groups at the time. The president of the Arab Publishers’ Association, Mohamed Rashad, said in February that the group was preparing a petition calling on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to “cancel or reduce” the five-year sentence against Lotfy.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights in February called on Sisi not to ratify the sentence. “The novel has been published in several countries,” the group said in a statement. “And the freedom of publication is an essential part of the right to share information and seek knowledge that was stipulated in the international conventions ratified by the Egyptian state.”
A group of writers also launched an online campaign earlier this year to collect signatures in solidarity with Lotfy, describing the sentence against him as “unjust.”
The Supreme Military Appeals Court postponed a ruling on the case 11 times before issuing its final verdict on Tuesday.