DHAKA – The owners of a garment factory in Bangladesh surrendered to authorities on Sunday to face homicide charges for a 2012 fire at the plant that killed 112 workers.
Police filed homicide charges in December against 13 people in connection with the fire at the Tazreen Fashions Ltd. factory, including the owners, Delwar Hossain and his wife, Mahmuda Akter. Arrest warrants were issued for six of the accused who police said had fled, including the owners.
The November 2012 fire was one of several deadly disasters that have exposed harsh and unsafe working conditions in Bangladesh’s lucrative garment industry. A factory collapse last April killed more than 1,100 workers.
After Hossain and Akter turned themselves in, a court in the capital, Dhaka, rejected their bail petition and ordered them to be jailed, pending further legal procedures.
If found guilty, the accused face a minimum of seven years and up to life in prison, prosecutor Anwarul Babul said. Four of the accused are still at large.
The factory, located outside Dhaka and which produced clothing for major retailers including Wal-Mart, had no emergency exits and its location in a narrow alley prevented firefighters from responding quickly to the blaze, Babul said.
The investigation found that when the fire broke out, managers and security guards told workers it was part of a regular drill and it was too late for many to escape. Workers found the gates locked from outside as the fire engulfed the sprawling building, according to the investigation.
It is the first time Bangladesh has sought to prosecute factory owners in its garment industry, which is the world’s largest after China.
The impoverished South Asian nation earns more than $20 billion a year from garment exports, mainly to the United States and Europe.