A court in Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital, agreed yesterday to murder charges against 41 people responsible for the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in April 2013 that killed 1,135 garment workers and injured 2,515 more. Among the accused are Sohel Rana, the building's owner, and the five owners of the garment factories. While Rana is currently in jail, 16 others are out on bail and arrest warrants are out against 24 others.
Investigators had initially looked at culpable homicide as charge but shifted their stance to murder after it became clear during the investigation that Rana, his staff and the management of the five garment factories had forced the workers to return to work even after major cracks developed in the building structure and workers at other offices had already been evacuated.
"The two charge sheets described the owner of the building and officials of the garment factories as cold-blooded murderers for allowing workers to work despite knowing that the building had developed cracks and there were significant risks involved", reports the Dhaka Tribune.
In terms of punishment, the difference is pronounced: While the maximum jail term for culpable homicide is seven years, those convicted of murder are potentially facing a death sentence. Given the severity of the disaster, the police spoke of a "mass killing" in its report.
In a separate case, the accused are also facing charges of violating safety rules for Rana Plaza: Three storeys had been added illegally to the original five-storeyd building, which was meant for office spaces and retail stores. The load of the factory machinery together with the constant humming of the sewing machines on the top floors had slowly but surely shaken the foundation and structure of the building, leading to its collapse.Image: Solidarity Center / flickr