13 charged over Bangladesh factory fire

Dhaka, Dec 22 : Charges have finally been pressed against 13 people, including the owner of a garment factory, over a devastating fire that left 112 people dead as officials wrapped up an investigation more than a year after the horrendous tragedy.

In November 2012, in one of the worst tragedies in Bangladesh's history, at least 112 workers of the factory at Ashulia on the outskirts of capital Dhaka were killed.

Dozens of workers also sustained injuries as the Nov 24 fire, claimed to be "an act of sabotage", raged through the eight-storey Tazreen Fashion Limited, where items of global brands, including US retail giant Walmart were manufactured.

A.K.M. Mohsinuzzaman Khan, a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) inspector, Sunday morning submitted the charge-sheet against the accused in the chief judicial magistrate's court in Dhaka.

A CID official, who preferred not to be named, said the Tazreen Fashion Ltd owner and its officials have been accused of breaching construction rules including building staircases that were too narrow and unsafe.

Of the accused, he said, many, including owner Delwar, are on the run. The only arrest is that of security-in-charge Anisur Rahman.

After submitting the charges, the CID inspector made a plea to the court to issue arrest warrants against the absconding accused.

He also requested the court to confiscate the properties of the absconding accused.

Bangladesh has one of the largest garment industries in the world, providing cheap clothing for major Western retailers that benefit from its widespread low-cost labour.

But the industry has been widely criticised for low pay and limited rights given to workers and for the often dangerous working conditions in the factories.

In Bangladesh, factory owners are rarely charged over such tragedies.

Analysts say tragic incidents continue to occur in Bangladesh as most of the time the culprits go unpunished.

The Tazreen fire incident was dwarfed by another industrial tragedy at an apparel hub on the outskirts of the capital where five factories housed in an eight-storey building collapsed April 24 this year, leaving at least 1,130 people dead.

The tragedy revived questions about the commitments of factory owners and their global buyers to provide safe working conditions in the annually $22 billion export sector, which comprises about 5,000 factories employing more than four million workers, 80 percent of whom are women.

--IANS (Posted on 22-12-2013)

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