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Bangladesh court orders arrest of apparel factory owner, five others

By Farid Ahmed, CNN
December 31, 2013 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
A Bangladeshi Army personel walks through rows of burnt sewing machines after a fire in the plant.
A Bangladeshi Army personel walks through rows of burnt sewing machines after a fire in the plant.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A fire at Tazreen Fashions Ltd. in Ashulia killed 112 people in November 2012
  • A court orders the arrest of the factory owner and his wife, plus four others
  • Seven others already have been arrested
  • A government panel has called fire an "act of sabotage," said factory should've been safer

Dhaka, Bangladesh (CNN) -- A Dhaka court on Tuesday ordered the arrest of six people, including the owner of Tazreen Fashions Ltd., after a fire in the apparel factory left 112 people dead last year, officials said.

"A senior judicial magistrate, Wasim Sheikh, today (Tuesday) accepted the charges against 13 accused and issued warrants for the arrest of six people, including the owner," Mohammad Asaduzzaman, inspector of the Dhaka judicial magistrate court, told CNN.

The criminal investigation department launched a probe after the fire on the outskirts of Bangladesh's capital and found 13 people guilty of gross negligence of safety measures in the apparel factory, which manufactured clothes for Western retailers.

They were charged with "culpable homicide" because of gross negligence that led to 112 deaths, a court official said.

If proved guilty, the accused could be sentenced up to life in jail or be fined under the Bangladesh Penal Code.

Of the 13 accused, seven have been arrested, and the court will now send arrest warrants to police stations in the localities where the other six reside. The court also asked police to report by February 25 if the six accused were arrested.

The six include Delwar Hossain, the owner and managing director of the company, and his wife, Mahmuda Akther, the chairwoman of Tazreen Fashions. The other accused are officials for the factory, which burned down in November of last year.

A government committee has said the fire was an "act of sabotage." The panel also said the owner of the factory should be held responsible for gross negligence and should face trial for the lack of safety measures that led to the 112 deaths.

Most of the dead in the fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Ashulia were women. Almost half of the dead were burned beyond recognition and were buried under government supervision after DNA samples were taken.

More than 200 people also were injured in the blaze.

"The owner of the factory should be brought to justice, as we find that proper safety measures could have lessened the fatalities," said Main Uddin Khandaker, head of the government committee and an additional secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs. He submitted a report on the tragedy to the home secretary this year.

Hossain, the factory owner, has not yet been detained was not available for comment Tuesday. He has admitted to local media that his factory lacked proper safety measures. However, he said he had not been aware of that.

Ready-made garments make up 80% of Bangladesh's $24 billion in annual exports.

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