Bangladesh fails to begin trial seven years after deadly Rana Plaza disaster

Seven years have gone since one of the world’s worst industrial disasters struck Bangladesh, but the owner of Rana Plaza building in Savar and others are yet to stand trial on charges over the killing of over 1,100 workers.

Court Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 24 April 2020, 05:11 PM
Updated : 24 April 2020, 06:17 PM

The defence has managed a freeze on the murder case proceedings from the High Court after charges were formally pressed in the trial court on Jun 21, 2016. The defendants were indicted on Jul 28 that year, but the beginning of the deposition by witnesses has been delayed more than 20 times.

The families of the thousands of casualties are awaiting justice, but Prosecutor Khandker Abdul Mannan, the chief state counsel of the Dhaka District and Sessions Judges Court, and Attorney General Mahbubey Alam could not say when the trial might begin.

Aminul Islam, a clerk at the court, told bdnews24.com that next witness hearing was set for Jul 30.

As many as 1,135 people were killed and over 2,500 injured after Rana Plaza, an eight-storey building housing five garment factories in Savar, collapsed on Apr 24, 2013.

The disaster hit global headlines, highlighting concerns about the safety of Bangladesh’s factories and their working conditions and forcing the government and factory owners to adopt new measures.

Three cases over the building’s collapse are pending in court. Trials have begun in two of these cases, one for culpable homicide and another for building code violations, but the court has been stuck in the deposition phase. Charges have not been pressed as yet in the Anti-Corruption Commission case.

Savar police had filed a case of ‘culpable homicide’ against 21 named suspects, including the building's owner Sohel Rana.

The investigation into the case, however, led to 41 being accused under 12 criminal charges for threatening workers with loss of jobs if they did not continue to work in conditions known to be hazardous.

The High Court has issued stay orders following an appeal from seven accused, which has stalled the process, Chief Public Prosecutor Khandker Abdul Mannan had earlier said. Abu Bakar Siddique, one of the seven accused hailing from Barisal, has died in a road crash.

“We have come to know that the High Court stay orders on proceedings against all the accused, except for one Mohammad Ali, have been lifted. But we are yet to receive the orders from the relevant section of the High Court, so we can’t go ahead with the witness testimonies,” Khandker Abdul Mannan told bdnews24.com.

“If steps are taken from the office of the attorney general, we are ready to move forward,” he said affirming the preparation for the hearing once stay orders are lifted.

However, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said, “I have to know whose trials have been stayed. What can I do if I don’t?”

Alam gave no clear indication regarding whom the responsibility to inform him lies with. “There is nothing stopping us from starting the trials of the cases from which stay orders have been lifted.”

Sub-Inspector Wali Ashraf of Savar Police Station started a case citing 'murder due to negligence' after the incident.

Assistant Police Commissioner of Criminal Investigation Department or CID Bijoy Krishna Kar submitted in court the charge sheet against 41 accused including Sohel Rana on Apr 26, 2015. At least 594 people were listed as witnesses.

Two of the 41 defendants, Abu Bakar Siddique and Abul Hossain, have died leaving the number of the accused at 39.

The case over building code violations, filed by the capital development authority RAJUK, has also been stuck in the deposition phase at the Dhaka Senior Judicial Magistrates court.

The chargesheet in the case, which accuses 18, including Sohel Rana, of using flawed and low-quality materials in the construction of Rana Plaza, has been submitted.

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