13 charged year after Tazreen tragedy
Police yesterday pressed homicide charges against 13 people, including Tazreen Fashions Managing Director Delwar Hossain, in a case over the devastating fire that killed 112 workers and injured many others in November last year.
The 13 were also charged with mischief by fire and causing grievous hurt and death by negligence.
The other accused include Delwar's wife and Tazreen Chairman Mahmuda Akter, and on-duty managers, security guards and an engineer.
If convicted, the accused could face a maximum punishment of life imprisonment or minimum seven years in jail, said Investigation Officer AKM Mohsinuzzaman Khan, who submitted the charge sheet to the Dhaka Chief Judicial Magistrate's Court.
At least 112 workers, mostly women, were killed and scores wounded in the country's worst industrial blaze at Tazreen Fashions in Ashulia on the outskirts of the capital on November 24 last year.
The factory used to produce and supply garments to different international brands, including Walmart.
Ashulia Police filed a case on November 25 in connection with the incident.
Police submitted the charge sheet to the magistrate's court more than seven months after the High Court issued a ruling on the incident.
Following a writ petition, the HC on May 19 asked the government to explain why it should not be directed to prosecute Tazreen owner Delwar for his alleged negligence in protecting the workers from fire.
Delwar appeared before the HC at every hearing on the petition in line with a court order.
In June this year, a probe body formed by the home ministry submitted a report to the HC, saying there was “unpardonable neglect” on the part of the owner.
Talking to The Daily Star on the HC premises the same month, Delwar denied his responsibility in the fire incident and protested his innocence.
He claimed law enforcers had not arrested him, as there were no specific charges against him.
However, on May 29 this year, the brother of a fire victim sued the Tazreen owners and 29 factory staff for gross negligence.
On November 23, the HC again asked Delwar to appear before it on January 5 next year.
According to the charge sheet, Delwar and his wife had constructed the building on a faulty plan with the help of the engineer, and illegally used the ground-floor walkway as a warehouse.
There was no fire exit in the factory though a provision of the labour law stipulates that there must be two exits in every factory, it said.
Moreover, the factory was built a mile away from the main road making it very difficult for fire service vehicles to enter the factory compound, said Khan, also inspector of Criminal Investigation Department of police.
Managers and security guards were charged over their insistence that workers get back to work though smoke was billowing from the ground floor where the fire started.
Fire alarms rang as soon as the blaze broke out. Panicked workers tried to leave the factory before the fire spread. But managers and security guards told them it was nothing serious, said Khan.
The other 11 accused are Factory Manager Abdur Razzak, Quality Manager Shahiduzzaman Dulal, Production Manager Mobarak Hossain Monju, Manager (admin) Md Dulal Uddin, engineer Mahbubul Morshed, store-in-charge Hamidul Islam and Md Al Amin, security in-charge Md Al Amin and Anisur Rahman, security guard Md Rana, and loader Shamim Mia.
Of them, only security-in-charge Anisur is now behind bars.
Tazreen owners Delwar and his wife Mahmuda, Factory Manager Razzak, Quality Manager Dulal, engineer Morshed and Production Manager Monju have been shown as fugitives in the charge sheet.
The six other accused got bail from the HC and the lower court on different dates.
The investigation officer has appealed to the court for issuing arrest warrants against the absconding accused and confiscating their properties.
A hearing on the charge sheet would be held at the magistrate's court on December 30, said Khan.