Crime & Justice

Murder trial in Bangladesh’s deadliest building collapse resumes

Dhaka, Mar 16 (EFE).– The wait for justice for the relatives of the hundreds of garment workers, who died in a sudden building collapse nine years ago, saw some light on Wednesday after a court in Dhaka completed recording the testimony of the first witness in the murder trial.

Jakia Akter, a survivor of the Rana Plaza tragedy, has no clue if she will ever get justice for what happened to her life and many other co-workers on a fateful morning nine years ago.

Jakia was working at Ether Tex garments on the sixth floor when the Rana Plaza building collapsed in the blink of an eye on Apr.24, 2013, and claimed around 1,130 lives and left more than 2,500 wounded.

“I survived the incident. But I am now living hand to mouth as I cannot work much with my poor health. I want justice for whoever is responsible for spoiling my life,” Jakia said.

The murder trial against Rana Plaza owner Sohel Rana and 35 others first resumed in late January years after a court framed charges against the accused to start the process.

The trial had its first hearing on Sep.18, 2016, and has since then got repeatedly postponed on different procedural grounds.

“We could not resume trial as two accused got a stay order from the High Court on trial against them. Now the court decided to hold the trial for others for dropping their names,” said Sheikh Hemayet Hossain, the chief public prosecutor of Dhaka district.

“We have requested the office of the attorney general to vacate the stay order against their trial. Once it is done the court will start trial proceedings against these two people also,” he said.

The prosecutor said the court started recording the testimony of the plaintiff, a police sub-inspector, on Jan.31.

The process was to resume on Feb.16. But the court deferred the trial as the main accused, Sohel Rana, who is now in jail, could not be shifted out.

The court began with the testimony of the first witnesses of the accident, defense lawyer Rezaul Karim told EFE.

“Today, the plaintiff completed giving his testimony and defense started cross-examining him. They could not complete the process and the court fixed Sunday for further hearing in the case,” additional public prosecutor Bimal Samadder told EFE.

“The court also appointed three state-defense lawyers for six fugitive accused,” he said.

Among the 41 original defendants, three have died already, including the father of main defendant Rana, said another public prosecutor Shamsur Rahman.

“The trial has now started against 36 people since three died and two others have secured a stay order from the High Court,” he said.

Among the defendants, only Rana is now in jail.

He already served a three-year prison sentence imposed in 2017 for having illegal wealth and has a few other cases pending against him.

The prosecutors sounded confident that they could prove the murder charges against him.

“Initially, he took permission to construct a four-storied building at the site. He hid the information to take approval for eight storied building later,” said prosecutor Rahman.

“He did this being fully aware that the foundation of the building would not be able to take the load of an eight-storied building. This is why a murder charge was brought against him and others, who were involved in giving the approval.”

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