Egypt: fire destroys all documents on Arab Spring protest killings

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A fire that broke out in the South Cairo Primary Court on Thursday morning consumed “all” legal documents, case files and equipment, the court’s chairman, Hani Abbas, told the daily al-Masry al-Youm.

Abbas said the third floor of the building that caught on fire contained files of investigations that were conducted regarding the killing of demonstrators during the Jan. 25 revolution and the subsequent events.

The incident has been labeled as suspicious by Egyptian Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki who spoke to Al Arabiya.

Abbas said some of the legal cases that the court was handling included Hosni Mubarak’s alleged role in the killing of protesters. The “Battle of the Camel” incident, that saw heavy violence in central Cairo on Feb. 2, 2011 and other cases. He added that trials in some of the cases would be moved to the new Zeinhom Court.

Egyptian Civil Defense Forces managed to put out the fire and an investigation into the incident has been launched.
Mekki noted that the fire should speed up the process of digitizing lawsuit documents.

“The ministry is serious in achieving this project, and the electronic lawsuits will become a reality in Egypt by October 1st, when we will have a digital original of every legal document used in lawsuits.”

The spokesperson of the Public Prosecution, Mustapha Doweidar, denied that important documents had been lost in fire. He asserted that the public prosecution has already stored digital copies of pending cases.

Simmering tensions

The incident came amid simmering tensions between political factions in the country, with the ruling Islamists bent on eradicating what they often call “remnants” of the old regime from the public administration and positions of power.

Last year, President Mohammed Mursi replaced former prosecutor-general Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud, who was accused of having ties with the old regime. Mursi appointed Talaat Abdullah as the new prosecutor.

Last week, a court ruled to reinstate Mahmoud but Abdullah refused to abandon his post, further straining the relationship between the presidency and the judiciary.

Liberal revolutionary powers accuse Mursi of seeking to transform the country into a dictatorial Islamist state, especially by ordering the shutdown of newspapers and the silencing of various critics.