On February 4, according to a report in Al Akhbar, Al Modon, and elsewhere, Khalid Lutfi, founder of Cairo’s Tanmia Bookshop and Publishing, was sentenced to five years on charges of divulging military secrets and spreading rumors for having distributed an Arabic translation of the book The Angel: Ashraf Marwan, by Israeli author Yuri Bar Joseph:
The case started when Tanmia’s founder signed an agreement with Arab Scientific Publishers to publish an Egyptian edition of the controversial book about Ashraf Marwan (1944-2007), who is alleged to have spied on Egypt for Israel. Egyptian officials deny that Marwan was a spy.
Lutfi’s military trial, Al Akhbar reports, took place under cover of “complete silence, respecting his family’s wishes.” As the article further notes, there were two charges — apparently upheld in a secret military trial — which are a bit of a paradox: simultaneously spreading false rumors and disclosing military secrets.
According to Erem News, Lutfi was originally arrested in April 2018 on charges of disclosing military secrets by distributing the Arabic translation of the book The Angel: Ashraf Marwan.
Erem News further reported that the verdict isn’t final and can be appealed in the military court of cassation.
Tanmia Bookshop opened in 2011 and later spawned a highly respected publishing house. The publishing house brought out a number of acclaimed authors in translation; in 2016 Lutfi told Ursula Lindsey that two of his most popular titles were by George Orwell and Stephen Hawking. Tanmia also published 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.
Although some authors and publishers have been reluctant to speak out about the case, there is a solidarity campaign using the hashtag #متضامن_مع_خالد_لطفي. Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji — who recently spoke about his own time in prison for literary crimes with Bilal Fadl — tweeted the statement in full:
We call on readers, intellectuals, all believers in freedoms, publishers, Arab and international publishers' associations, journalists, cultural and civil society organizations and institutions to take a clear and unequivocal stand to bring this unjust judgment to an end
— Ahmed Naji (@AhmedNajiTW) February 23, 2019