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Egyptian publisher Khaled Lotfi sentenced to five years for translating Israeli novel

Egypt has been criticised for its lack of press freedom [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 December, 2019

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

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 said. 

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. 

Egypt's press freedom

Egypt is one of the world's worst offenders against press freedom, according to the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.

The government under President Abdelfattah al-Sisi, has targeted independent media, banning more than 500 websites including The New Arab, Al-Jazeera and Mada Masr, and brought much of the press under state control. 

Read more: Amnesty accuses Egypt of “unprecedented” repression, torture and executions six years after coup

At least 25 journalists are imprisoned in Egypt, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). At least seven journalists were detained during the September protests against President Sisi, CPJ added.

Egypt jails more journalists than any country other than China and Turkey, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based watchdog.

In one of the most recent episodes, plainclothes officers raided the Cairo office of news outlet Mada Masr, demanding that journalists unlock and hand over their phones and laptops.

Three journalists including chief editor Lina Attallah were arrested but eventually released.

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