On 24 December 2019, the Egyptian Military Court of Cassation, following 11 postponements, finally rejected Egyptian publisher Khaled Lotfy’s final possible appeal against his 5-year prison sentence for publishing an Egyptian edition of Uri Bar Joseph’s The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel. Only a Presidential pardon can now free Khaled Lotfy from prison.
Kristenn Einarsson, Chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee said: It is incomprehensible that Khaled Lotfy can be imprisoned, not only for publishing a book, but for publishing a new version of a book that was already available. His only chance of freedom is a Presidential pardon, and we implore President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to release Khaled so that he can be reunited with his family.
Khaled Lotfy received the IPA’s Prix Voltaire in May 2019. He was sentenced by a military Court in April 2019 to five years in prison for spreading rumours and revealing military secrets as a result of publishing a cheaper, Arabic language, Egyptian edition of The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel. The book was originally translated into Arabic by the Lebanon-based Arab Scientific Publishers and had been available in Egypt as a relatively expensive import. It was also turned into a successful Netflix film under the title The Angel, and is available internationally, including in Egypt. Around 2000 unsold printed copies of the Egyptian edition were destroyed by Lotfy ahead of the military trial.
In Khaled Lotfy’s speech, read out by his brother at the Prix Voltaire award ceremony in Seoul in June 2019, he stated.
I thank God who made me choose the most humane profession in history, a profession which enables me to help share and spread culture, while at the same time both creating and above all raising awareness.
At the IPA General Assembly in Frankfurt in 2019 he also said.
Since nearly two years my life, the life of my family, of all the people around me and everyone who loves me has stopped for no reason. I wish for an end to that. I want to see “Tanmia” and my young girls grow up together at the same time. I want to get out of here.
Tanmia Bookshop opened in 2011 and later launched a highly respected publishing house. The publishing house brought out a number of acclaimed authors in translation as well as 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.
About The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel
The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel was written by Israeli author Uri Bar Joseph and profiles Ashraf Marwan – former Egyptian 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 International Publishers Association (IPA) is the world’s largest federation of publishers associations with 83 members in 69 countries. Established in 1896, the IPA is an industry body with a human rights mandate. The IPA’s mission is to promote and protect publishing and to raise awareness of publishing as a force for economic, cultural and social development. Working in cooperation with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and numerous international NGOs, the IPA champions the interests of book and journal publishing at national and supranational level. Internationally, the IPA actively opposes censorship and promotes copyright, freedom to publish (including through the IPA Prix Voltaire), and literacy.
About the Prix Voltaire
The IPA Prix Voltaire is unique in honouring the freedom to publish, without which many forms of freedom of expression would be impossible. Publishers who provide authors with the tools to disseminate their written ideas assume the same risks as the writers themselves.
Nominees have usually published controversial works amid pressure, threats, intimidation or harassment, be it from governments, other authorities or private interests. Alternatively, they may be publishers with a distinguished record of upholding the values of freedom to publish and freedom of expression. For the purposes of the IPA Prix Voltaire, the definition of ‘publisher’ is an individual, collective or organization that provides others with the means to share their ideas in written form, including via digital platforms.
The IPA Prix Voltaire, which comes with a CHF 10,000 prize, is made possible by generous contributions from sponsors, all of which are publishing houses and organizations that share the values that the IPA Prix Voltaire recognizes.
The sponsors of the 2019 IPA Prix Voltaire are, in alphabetical order:
- Albert Bonniers Förlag(Sweden)
- Bonnier Media Deutschland(Germany)
- Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels(Germany)
- Cappelen Damm(Norway)
- Holtzbrinck Publishing Group(Germany)
- Natur & Kultur(Sweden)
- Verlagsgruppe Random House(Germany)