Eighteen suspects were charged in a Dhaka court on Tuesday with violating Bangladesh’s building laws by allegedly colluding to construct the Rana Plaza garment factory complex against code, before it collapsed, killed more than 1,100 people and injured more than 2,500 others in April 2013. Chief Judicial Magistrate Mostafizur Rahman indicted the eighteen defendants, including the owner of the building, Sohel Rana, who have been formally accused of violating the building code by constructing four additional floors on top of the original five-story building. Built with substandard materials, the building, which housed garments factories that supplied fast fashion retailers, such as Joe Fresh, Benetton, Primark, and Mango, among others, also had structural flaws, according to the case statement.
According to prosecutor Anwar Kabir Babul, “Hearing both the defense and prosecution, the trial court today, for the first time, framed charges against the [aforementioned] 18 individuals. All of the accused persons, including the owner of the building, Sohel Rana, had a role in the construction of the building in violation of Bangladesh’s building code.”
Among the accused, three, including Rana, are now in jail and 10 others, including Rana’s parents, Abdul Khaleque and Morjina Begum, are on bail. The five remaining defendants (an engineer, two urban planners and two owners of the construction firm) went into hiding following the deadly incident three years ago. The 13 accused pleaded not guilty after the charges were read out to them in court on Tuesday, and the court announced that the trial will begin on August 23.
In the meantime, another Dhaka court is scheduled to begin hearing the separate but related case founded upon murder charges against Rana and 40 others in connection with April 2013 tragedy. The proceedings in that matter are slated to commence on July 18.