By Julhas Alam
DHAKA, Bangladesh -- 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 and were denied bail.
The factory outside the capital, Dhaka, which produced clothing for big retailers including Wal-Mart (WMT) 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.
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.
After Hossain and Akter surrendered Sunday, a Dhaka 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's.
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.