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42 Face Charges in Factory Collapse

Thursday, June 4, 2015

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DHAKA, BANGLADESH—Murder charges have been brought against the owner of a Bangladesh garment factory and more than a dozen government officials in connection with a building collapse that killed more than 1,000 people in April 2013.

Authorities in Bangladesh have charged 42 people in the disaster. Forty-one are charged with murder; 18, including 17 of those charged with murder, face building-code violations, according to news reports Monday (June 1).

Among those charged with murder are building owner Sohel Rana; his father, Abdul Khalek; and the owners of the five garment companies housed in the building, the Daily Star reported.

Rana Plaza collapse

Rana Plaza, a nine-story complex that housed five garment factories, collapsed April 24, 2013, in Savar, near the capital city of Dhaka.

The nine-story Rana Plaza complex in Savar collapsed about 9 a.m. April 24, 2013, killing 1,135—one day after large cracks were discovered in the building and police had ordered its evacuation.

More than 2,500 people were rescued from the concrete rubble and twisted steel. Many of them suffered horrific and disabling injuries.

The building—built in 2004 and designed for use as a shopping center—housed a bank, shop and five garment factories that provided clothing for Western retailers.

Investigators have described the building, which had at least three illegally constructed floors, as a “death trap.”

Death Penalty

The accused face the death penalty if convicted of murder, according to the BBC.

Building owner Sohel Rana
Screenshot NBC News / Today.com

Prosecutors accuse the owner of the doomed factory building, Sohel Rana, and others with ignoring an evacuation order issued the day before the collapse.

A court hearing is set for June 28 to outline the proceedings.

The building-code violations include structural fault found at the building, constructing the building with substandard materials, and violating the National Building Code, according to the Daily Star.

The collapse was the worst industrial disaster in the country’s history and prompted global criticism of factory working conditions.

A copy of the charging documents were not available for review Wednesday (June 3). It was also unclear whether those charged were in police custody.

Owners, Others Arrested

Building owner Rana was arrested days after the collapse as he attempted to flee the country.

Rana reportedly told tenants that the building was safe to occupy, despite a police evacuation order issued the day before. Many of the deceased were garment-company employees who had been ordered to report to work.

Rescue underway
Sharat Chowdhury / Wikimedia Commons

Rescuers combed the site for days looking for signs of life. Reports say some workers remain unaccounted for.

After his arrest, Rana claimed that the factory owners had pressured him to keep the operations open.

“I did not force the owners,” he said, according to bdnews24.com, an online news outlet in Bangladesh. “It was them who forced me, saying they would face huge losses and shipments would be canceled if the factories were closed for even one day.”

Moreover, at least nine others were also questioned and arrested in the wake of the collapse, including two government engineers responsible for issuing safety permits for the building, reports related.

Challenging Investigation

Ultimately, it took investigators two years to bring charges against the parties involved.

Authorities explained that the process has been challenging, noting that no one has previously been punished for accidents at garment factories, according to the BBC.

Investigators have recorded statements from more than 1,200 people, including injured factory workers, government officials and experts, according to the news bureau.

© iStock.com / bdspn

Bangladesh is the world's second-largest exporter of garments after China.

Further, prosecutors reportedly accused factory owners and others with political power of trying to hamper the investigation and prevent certain people from being charged.

The government’s permission was required to include the names of government officials in the list of those charged, which was a “long procedure,” prosecutors said.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Building owners; Criminal acts; Design; Facility Managers; Fatalities

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