Update: Justice Ministry pushes for digitial archives after court fire

A Cairo Security Directorate official said the majority of files burned in a fire at the South Cairo Court on Thursday morning in the Bab al-Khalq neighborhood were related to cases regarding events in Tahrir Square following the revolution and regarding the prosecution of public funds.

A security source told Al-Masry Al-Youm denied rumors that the burnt files included documents from the case against former President Hosni Mubarak and former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly accused of killing protesters.  They had been moved to another location two months ago, he said.

The offices on the burnt floor housed files for cases related to the prosecution of public funds and events that took place in Tahrir Square after the revolution, in addition to documents from closed cases, the source said.

Mohamed Hanafy, assistant justice minister for court affairs, said it had not yet been determined which files were burned in the fire. "Some files are copied on CDs," he assured.

The official added that he does not know whether the fire was accidental or deliberate. “Forensics are working on it,” he said.

It is not yet known if the documents of Ahmed Qazaf al-Dam’s case, the former coordinator of Egyptian-Libyan relations, were saved.

In an interview with Anadolu news agency, Justice Minister Ahmed Mekky said the incident will prompt the ministry to move ahead with a scheme to digitalize legal documents and adopt an electronic submission system for legal petitions as of October.

The president of the court Hany Abbas said told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the fire destroyed all the files that were kept in the offices of third floor. Some documents in the second floor were destroyed as a result of water leak, he added.

He pointed out that the South Cairo Court is one of the most important courts in the history of the Egyptian judiciary, and seen a number of cases on the killing of demonstrators since the beginning of the revolution until the present day.

Abbas pointed out that documents related to cases in which final rulings have been issued were kept on a microfilm, while the cases that are still being considered before courts or investigated by the general prosecution were lost in the fire.

He ended his comments saying, "Egypt's history has been burnt."

The General Prosecution, however, denied rumors that documents related to the revolution and public opinion cases were burnt, stressing that: "All important documents related to public opinion and revolution cases were taken out [of the court]."

The public prosecution said in a statement on its official page on Facebook, Thursday, "We followed up on what has been reported about the damaging and burning important [documents] that were in South Cairo Court. The prosecution asserts that all important [documents] related to cases of importance to public opinion and the revolution had already been taken out."

The prosecution confirmed that electronic copies of those documents were stored on computers, and demanded that the media ensure the accuracy of its reporting in order to prevent the spread of rumors.

Civil protection forces were able to put out the fire one and a half hours after it broke out. Prosecutors and criminal experts reached the scene Thursday morning to examine the causes of the fire that had broken out at dawn.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim also visited, accompanied by a number of Cairo Security Directorate leaders, and praised the efforts of civil protection forces who managed to extinguish the fire before it spread to other floors in the court building.

Authorities have yet to determine the cause of the fire or the extent of damage.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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