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Bangladesh factory owners face fire charges

Couple who ran garment factory where blaze killed 112 denied bail after presenting themselves to authorities.

Last updated: 09 Feb 2014 19:26
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Two owners of a garments factory in Bangladesh where a fire killed 112 workers have turned themselves in to face homicide charges, a prosecutor said.

Anwarul Kabir said on Sunday Delwar Hossain and his wife Mahmuda Akter, owners of Tazreen Fashion, had pleaded for bail after surrendering.

The incident was Bangladesh’s worst factory fire.

"The court sent them to jail after rejecting their bail petition," Kabir said.

The couple are among six people wanted in connection with the November 24, 2012, blaze on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka.

An 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.

Protests outside court

Witnesses said several hundred people gathered at the court and chanted for the pair to be given the death penalty. If convicted, they could face life in prison.

In all, 13 people were charged in connection with the disaster, a rare step in a country where critics complain that powerful garment industry bosses often go unpunished for factory accidents.

The charges included breaching construction rules, such as the failure to provide two emergency exits.

Bangladesh is the world's second-largest textile exporter after China. In December it raised wages for workers and them to form trade unions in July after a string of factory accidents.

The $22bn export industry, which supplies many Western brands, came under scrutiny when a building housing factories collapsed in April, five months after the Tazreen fire, killing more than 1,130 people.

The owner of that building that collapsed, Mohammed Sohel Rana, was arrested after a four-day hunt as he appeared to be trying to flee across the border to India.

After the Tazreen blaze, both Wal-Mart Stores inc WMT.N and Sears Holdings Inc said that goods were being manufactured for them at the factory though both had denied it authorisation as a supplier.

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