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Bangladesh fire disaster factory owners surrender to police

The owners of a Bangladesh garment factory where scores of workers were killed when a fire engulfed the building in 2012 have turned themselves into authorities. Both have been jailed pending trial.

Owner and managing director of the Tazreen Fashion factory, Delwar Hossain, and his wife, the factory's chairwoman, Mahmuda Akter, were detained on Sunday after turning themselves in to local authorities. They were charged in December, more than a year after fire engulfed their factory and killed 112 people in 2012.

The owners of the factory are among the 13 people charged with culpable homicide following the deadly blaze. Six other suspects have been granted bail, while one other has been remanded in custody, said prosecutor Anwarul Kabir Babul. Four remain at large, he added.

Investigators working on the case filed the charges after more than a year of inquiries into the fire in the Ashulia industrial district on the outskirts of Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, on November 24, 2012.

The factory, which produced clothes for retail giants such as Wal-Mart and C&A, had no emergency exits to allow workers to escape when the building caught fire, investigators found.

The alleyway at the rear of the building, Babul said, was too narrow and prevented firefighters from reaching the blaze quickly. Investigators said that when the fire broke out, managers and security guards told workers it was part of a regular fire drill.

Survivors allege the main exits had been locked from the outside and they were not allowed to leave as fire took hold of the expansive building.

If found guilty those accused face a minimum of seven years and up to life in prison, Babul said.

This is the first case in which Bangladesh has sought to prosecute factory owners within its lucrative garment industry, which is the second largest in the world behind China's.

The garment industry accounts for more than 80 percent of Bangladesh's annual export revenues.

jlw/msh (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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