A court in Bangladeshi has ordered the arrest of 24 people and seizure of their assets after they failed to turn up to face murder charges over the collapse of a clothing factory that killed more than 1,100 people.
Senior judicial magistrate Mohammad Al Amin issued the warrants after his court accepted the murder charges against the 24 fugitives for the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory compound in April 2013.
It was one of the world’s worst industrial disasters.
“The court accepted the charge sheet against 41 people who have been charged with murder over the Rana Plaza disaster,” prosecutor Anwarul Kabir said.
“The court issued arrest warrants against 24 of them as they have absconded. It also ordered the seizure of their property,” he said, adding that police have been asked to report on their arrests by 27 January.
Kabir said the court had accepted the charges against four government factory and building inspectors despite attempts by their departments to shield them from prosecution by citing public servant immunity rules.
The case was delayed by “several months” due to actions of the various departments, Kabir said, adding that prosecutors now expect the trial to start by April next year.
Among the 41 who have been charged with murder is Sohel Rana, the owner of the nine-storey complex on the outskirts of Dhaka which collapsed on 24 April 2013, at the start of the working day.
Rana, who is in custody awaiting trial, became Bangladesh’s public enemy number one after survivors recounted how they were forced to start work despite complaints about cracks developing in the walls the previous day.
At least 1,138 people are known to have died in the tragedy, the worst in the country’s history. Rescue workers struggled for weeks to retrieve the bodies from the ruins but several people are still unaccounted for.
More than 2,000 people were injured, including many who lost limbs.
Seven owners of factories housed in the complex and 12 government officials responsible for safety and inspections were also charged with murder.
Rana’s parents, who jointly owned the building with him, and the mayor and councillor of the town of Savar where it was located, were also charged.
Those facing arrest include associates of Rana who “slapped and forced” the workers to join the shift, Kabir said.
In a separate case Rana and 41 others have been charged with violating building codes and with illegally extending the six-storey building, which was initially approved as a shopping mall, into a nine-storey factory complex.
The disaster highlighted appalling safety problems in Bangladesh’s $30bn garment industry and triggered global concern as protesters demanded action from western retailers.
Companies including Italy’s Benetton, Spain’s Mango and the British low-cost chain Primark used factories housed in the building.
The disaster prompted sweeping reforms including new safety inspections and higher wages in the industry which employs about 4 million people.