Rana Plaza Murder Trial: Only 1 out of 594 witnesses testified so far
The trial progress in the murder case filed over the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse has been dismal as only one out of 594 prosecution witnesses has so far testified.
It has left the survivors and families of those who died in the tragedy utterly frustrated.
The prosecution said testimonies could not be recorded as some of the accused in the case filed appeals with the High Court challenging indictment orders.
A Dhaka court framed charges against 41 accused, including building owner Sohel Rana, in 2016.
Of the witnesses, only Wali Ashraf Khan, the complainant, testified. It was recorded on March 16 this year, said the prosecution.
Three other witnesses have been asked to appear before the court for statements on May 29, it said.
With the slow progress in trial proceedings, many survivors and families of the deceased said they might not see justice served in their lifetime.
"We want the judgment. The authorities should take steps to ensure it as soon as possible, said Nilufar Yesmin, a survivor who lost her ability to work.
Another survivor, Mahmudul Hasan Hridoy, said, "It's extremely frustrating that we have not got justice even nine years after the incident that left so many people dead."
On this day in 2013, Rana Plaza came crashing down in Savar, leaving at least 1,136 people, mostly garment workers, dead and over 2,500 others injured. One of the deadliest tragedies in the history of the industries sector raised questions over labour safety in Bangladesh.
A day after the incident, Wali Ashraf Khan, sub-inspector of Savar Police Station, filed the murder case against Sohel Rana, also a former Jubo League leader in Savar, and several others.
On May 24, 2015, Bijay Krishna Kar, senior assistant superintendent of police at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), pressed charges against Sohel Rana, his parents Abdul Khaleque and Morjina, and 38 others in the murder case.
The Dhaka District and Sessions Judge's Court on July 18, 2016 framed charges against the 41 accused.
Of the 41 accused, only Sohel Rana is now behind bars, 30 are on bail and seven are on the run. Three of the accused have died.
Khurshid Alam Khan, a noted criminal lawyer, said, "For public interest, the case should be transferred to a speedy trial tribunal for its quick disposal as it is one of the most sensational cases and its progress is very poor."
Public Prosecutor (in-charge) Bimal Samadder said the trial proceedings were stalled as some accused filed appeals with the High Court challenging indictment orders.
"So, it was not possible to record statements for a long time," he said, adding that the court recorded statements of one witness after the HC vacated the stay orders.
On August 29, 2017, Sohel Rana was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in a graft case.
BUILDING CODE VIOLATION
The trial proceedings in another case, filed over violation of building codes, are now stalled due to High Court stay orders.
Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) had lodged the case over violation of building codes in the construction of Rana Plaza on the day of the collapse.
Charges were pressed against Sohel Rana and 17 others in the case on May 24, 2015, and the court accepted the charges on June 14, 2016.
But the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate's Court could not start recording statements of the prosecution witnesses due to the HC stay orders on the trial proceedings, said Additional Public Prosecutor Anwarul Kabir Babul.
[Our correspondent in Savar contributed to this report]