13 to stand trial for causing deaths in Dhaka factory fire

DHAKA • Two garment factory owners and 11 others will stand trial for causing the death of 111 workers, almost three years after the country's worst industrial fire.

Delwar Hossain and his wife Mahmuda Akter have been formally charged over the blaze that tore through the Tazreen factory on Dhaka's outskirts, trapping workers who stitched clothes for Western retailers.

"The court charged the 13 including Delwar and his wife with causing death by negligence," prosecutor Khandakar Abdul Mannan said outside the district court in Dhaka on Thursday.

"The judge ordered a trial from Oct 1 when witness testimonies will be recorded," prosecutor Mannan said.

The November 2012 fire shone an international spotlight on appalling safety and other conditions in Bangladesh's US$25 billion (S$35 billion) garment industry. But the disaster was followed by an even bigger tragedy less than 12 months later, when the nine-storey Rana Plaza garment complex collapsed, killing 1,138 people.

Mr Mannan said the 13 charged over the blaze, who also include factory managers and security guards, face a maximum of 10 years in jail if convicted of their roles in the fire. Eight of those charged, including the owners, were present in court on Thursday, while the other five were still on the run, Mr Mannan said.

Tazreen, in the Ashulia industrial district, supplied clothes to a variety of international brands, including United States giant Walmart, Dutch retailer C&A and ENYCE, a label owned by US rapper Sean "Diddy" Combs.

The factory's managing director Hossain and his wife, the chairman, were accused of breaching construction rules, including building unsafe staircases in the nine-storey complex.

The pair have pleaded not guilty.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2015, with the headline '13 to stand trial for causing deaths in Dhaka factory fire'. Print Edition | Subscribe