Bangladesh police are considering charging the owner of a collapsed garment factory building with manslaughter after the industrial disaster killed more than 1,000 people earlier this year.
“We are thinking about it seriously,” said Bijoy Krishna Kar, assistant superintendent of police. He is investigating the case that involves deaths of factory workers.
Sohel Rana, the owner of the eight-story complex that collapsed in April, is among the 21 people arrested in two cases tied to the collapse that killed 1,131 people. The investigation will take more than two months to complete before the police submit charges to court, Kar said.
The people arrested include Rana’s father and the former mayor of Savar, where the garment building was located. They also include executives of the five clothing factories housed in the complex, where garments were made for brands owned by Loblaw Cos. and Associated British Foods Plc.
After cracks were found in the building April 23, Rana forced workers to return to their posts and said it was safe as it was being checked by engineers. The building collapsed a day after. Rana was arrested after security forces tracked him to a western border town from where he planned to flee into India, and brought him back to Dhaka to face charges.
Some members of his family were also detained and a judge ordered his assets seized.
Refayet Ullah, the former mayor of Savar, was arrested on July 24 and held in custody by a judicial magistrate in the capital Dhaka after his bail application was rejected, his lawyer Sanaullah Miah said last week. He was earlier suspended from his job for failures in monitoring building constructions.
Savar is 24 kilometers (15 miles) northwest of Dhaka, the country’s capital.
The disaster reinforced calls in Bangladesh and elsewhere that the tragedy should lead to lasting change.
On July 25, the Bangladeshi government, employers’ and workers organizations signed a plan of action to improve fire safety and construction standards in garment factories in the countries. Key actions under the plan include assessment of factories and strengthening labor inspections, the International Labor Organization said.
Seventeen North American retailers, including Gap Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., announced a five-year plan earlier in July aimed at improving factory safety in Bangladesh. Hennes & Mauritz AB and Inditex SA, Europe’s two largest clothing retailers, signed a separate pact to improve safety.