Police charged the owners of a Bangladeshi garment factory and 11 employees with culpable homicide today for alleged negligence leading to the death of 112 workers in a raging fire that engulfed the factory last year. It was the first time Bangladeshi authorities had sought to prosecute factory owners in the world's second-largest garment industry. A series of recent deadly disasters—including the Nov. 24, 2012, fire and a factory collapse in April that killed more than 1,100 workers—exposed how harsh and often unsafe conditions can be for many of the country's 4 million workers providing clothing to major Western retailers.
Public Prosecutor Anwarul Kabir Babul said the 13 people charged today could face life in prison if convicted of failing to ensure safety at the sprawling Tazreen Fashions factory. The factory, which produced clothing for global brands including Walmart, had no emergency fire exits, while its location in a narrow alley meant firefighters were unable to reach the flames, Babul said. Those charged include owners Delwar Hossain and his wife, Mahmuda Akter, as well as 11 factory managers, security guards and engineers. A court will decide on Dec. 31 whether to allow a trial to proceed.