Egyptian publisher sent to prison for distributing Israeli novel

Founder of Egyptian publishing house sentenced to five years in prison for distributing Arabic version of novel about spy for Israel.

Elad Benari ,

Egypt-Israel border
Egypt-Israel border
Yaniv Nadav/Flash 90

The founder of an Egyptian publishing house was sentenced to five years in prison for distributing an Arabic version of a controversial Israeli novel, his brother said Tuesday, according to AFP.

The novel entitled "The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel", 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.

Khaled Lotfi has been on trial in a military court since 2018 for publishing an Arabic version of the book, two years earlier.

The publisher, accused of having "divulged military secrets", was sentenced to five years in prison despite appealing against an initial ruling, his brother Mahmoud Lotfi told AFP.

"There is no other recourse but a presidential pardon," he added.

Marwan, who also worked as an adviser to president Anwar Sadat after the death of Nasser in 1970, died in 2007 in London in mysterious circumstances.

Egyptian authorities arranged a grand funeral and Marwan was hailed as a hero.

A 2018 film based on the book, titled "The Angel", was met with outrage by Egyptian media, which slated it as a manipulation of history.

Although Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, their ties have been formally cold, and Egypt's political elite remains hostile to any normalization of ties with Israel.

A 2015 poll found that Egyptians see Israel as the "most hostile" of their neighbors, despite the peace treaty.

In 2016, some Egyptians were outraged after an Israeli book was allowed into an international book fair in Cairo.

In 2013, the movement that led the opposition to former Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi said it would target the peace treaty with Israel, by collecting signatures to a petition calling for its cancellation.