Fire broke out at the South Cairo Court in Bab Al-Khalq on Thursday, destroying the court’s third floor.
The third floor houses the South Cairo Prosecution. The fire burnt all the floor’s contents, including machines, offices and case files.
The fire was momentarily put down, only to reignite again, threatening to expand further than the third floor. It lasted for over two hours, fire ambulances finding a hard time while putting it down due to the narrow streets surrounding the court.
A prosecution team led by Tarek Abu Zeid, South Cairo’s attorney general, headed to the burning court to examine the damage. The minister of interior visited the court as well, according to Ministry of Interior Spokesperson Hany Abdel Lattif.
“Investigation has begun,” Abdel Lattif said. He added that the Criminal Evidence Authority and the prosecution are looking into the causes of the fire and the losses caused by it.
A preliminary examination reportedly suggests that the fire destroyed all cases reviewed by central and western Cairo courts. The files were kept inside the prosecution secretaries offices which were engulfed in flames.
Ismail Hafeez, head of South Cairo Prosecution, told state-owned Al-Ahram that extinguishing water destroyed all lawsuit files of the Misdemeanor Helwan, Maadi and Basateen courts of appeals.
News reports claim that the fire destroyed the documents of the lawsuit against former Libyan official Ahmed Qaddaf Al-Dam. Al-Dam is accused possessing ammunition and unlicensed weapons and attempting to kill a police officer during his arrest in Zamalek over two weeks ago. Only yesterday, Egypt Administrative Court ruled against handing Al-Dam to Libya on the grounds that he is under investigation for crimes committed inside Egypt and must be tried there
The fire also reportedly destroyed documents of the lawsuit accusing Ultras groups of torching the Egyptian Football Association and the Police Club, a lawsuit involving the Moqattam clashes, and a lawsuit investigating the 2011 Mohamed Mahmoud street clashes.
Malek Adly, lawyer at the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), said: “Egypt’s entire judiciary archives are kept at the South Cairo Court,” adding that the court is one of the oldest in Egypt. He stated that most political lawsuits are hosted by the court.
“This fire is disastrous,” Adly said. He added that the court is home to archives of compensation districts, workers’ districts and insurance districts. “The documents of pending lawsuits are kept in the court.”
Al-Ahram reported that microfilm copies of pending lawsuits might be recovered. However, Adly stated that the microfilm copies are inaccurate, adding that the criminal cases cannot be copied on microfilm.
The South Cairo Court was established in 1884 with the surfacing of civil courts in Egypt. The court was home to a number of historical trials, the most prominent of which being the trial of former president Anwar Al-Sadat in 1948. Al-Sadat was tried alongside other men for resisting the British occupation.