Bangladesh fire factory owners surrender to face charges

Two owners of a Bangladesh garment factory where 112 workers died in a fire two years ago surrendered on Sunday and sought bail after they were charged with homicide.

4 of 13 accused in deadly building collapse still at large

In this photo taken Nov. 25, 2012, a firefighter douses the interior of the burned out Tazreen garment factory in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The factory fire killed 112 garment workers. (Khurshed Rink/Associated Press)

The two owners of a Bangladesh garment factory who are facing homicide charges for a 2012 fire that killed 112 workers surrendered to a court Sunday.

The factory outside the capital, Dhaka, which produced clothing for big retailers including Walmart, had no emergency exits and its location in a narrow alley prevented firefighters from responding quickly to the deadly blaze in November 2012, said prosecutor Anwarul Kabir Babul.

Two owners of Tazreen Fashions Ltd., Delwar Hossain, centre left, and his wife, Mahmuda Akter, right, are escorted by security personnel to a court in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Sunday. (Associated Press)

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.

Police filed homicide charges Dec. 22 against 13 people in connection with the fire, including the owners of Tazreen Fashions Ltd., Delwar Hossain and his wife, Mahmuda Akter. Arrest warrants were issued Dec. 31 for six who police said had fled, including the two owners.

Bail petition rejected

After Hossain and Akter surrendered Sunday, a court 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, Babul said. Of the 13 accused, four are still at-large.

It's the first time Bangladesh has sought to prosecute factory owners in its lucrative garment industry, which is the world's second largest after China.

The fire is one of several deadly disasters that have exposed harsh and unsafe working conditions in Bangladesh's garment industry. A factory collapse last April killed more than 1,100 workers.

The impoverished South Asian nation earns more than $20 billion a year from garment exports, mainly to the United States and Europe.