Lutfi, who founded Cairo’s Tanmia Bookshop and Publishing in 2011, was was arrested in April 2018 and sentenced to five years in prison by a military court in October 2018. The charges against him were “divulging military secrets” and “spreading rumors.” At issue was Lutfi’s plan to publish an Egyptian edition of the Arabic translation of The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel, by Uri Bar-Joseph. An Arabic translation had already appeared from Arab Scientific Publishers in Lebanon.
The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel centers on Ashraf Marwan (1944-2007), an Egyptian billionaire and son-in-law of Gamal Abdel Nasser, who is alleged to have spied on Egypt for Israel. Egyptian officials have denied that Marwan was a spy.
A number of writers, publishers, and human rights groups have protested Lutfi’s arrest, and, in February, many gathered signatures for a public letter of protest. Also, earlier this year, the International Publishers Association announced that the 2019 Prix Voltaire, which “supports defenders of freedom to publish,” would go to Lutfi.
According to Mada Masr, the Supreme Military Appeals Court had “postponed a ruling on the case 11 times before issuing its final verdict on Tuesday.”