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Four years of collapse: Rana Plaza victims yet to get justice

Four years have elapsed since the Rana Plaza building collapse, but there is no significant progress in trial proceedings in the two cases filed over the country’s deadliest industrial disaster.
The shoddily constructed commercial building came crashing down on the morning of April 24, 2013, leaving 1,136 people dead and injuring 1,169 more at Savar on the outskirts of the capital.

Two separate Dhaka courts framed charges against 42 accused, including building owner Sohel Rana, in the two cases, but the courts are yet to start recording statements of witnesses in the cases.

The murder case filed over the building collapse is pending with Dhaka District and Sessions Judge’s Court due to various complexities, including negligence of prosecution and law enforcers, non-appearance of witnesses and slow trial process.

On July 18 last year, the court framed the charges against 41 accused, including Sohel Rana, in the case. Afterward, the court fixed four dates — September 8, November 17, January 22 and February 26 — to start recording statements of witnesses but it failed to record the testimony due to time petitions of prosecution and defence lawyers on various grounds.However, Public Prosecutor (PP) Khandaker Abdul Mannan of the court told daily sun that recording deposition is being delayed due to some complexities.

He said the High Court stayed trial proceedings against seven accused in the case.
“Now, we are waiting for suggestion of the Attorney General for conducting trial against the rest of the accused in the case,” he said.

Apart from this, the courts also cannot record deposition as Savar Police Station is not submitting a report on an accused named Abu Bakar Siddique who died recently, the state counsel said.

Of the accused, three — Sohel Rana, Rafiqul islam and Sarwar Kamal — are now in jail, eight — Mahbubur Rahman, Farzana Islam, Monwar Hossain, Syed Shafiqul islam, Rezaul Islam (1), Nantu Contractor, Nayan Miah and Rezaul Karim (2) — are on the run while the rest of the accused are roaming scot-free after taking bail in the case.

Meanwhile, another case filed under the building construct act remains stuck with Dhaka Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Court due to legal complexity.

On June 14 last year, the court framed charges against 18 accused, including Sohel Rana, in the case.
Since then, the court fixed many dates for recording statements of witnesses but it failed to record the testimony due to time petition of lawyers.

The defence lawyers are filling time petitions in every scheduled date seeking adjournment, mentioning that petitions of three accused, submitted to the Dhaka District and Sessions Judge’s Court challenging the legality of charge framing in the case, are pending.

Accepting the defence time petition, the court is fixing dates one after another, which is causing delay in starting recording statement of witnesses in the case, said Additional Public Prosecutor Anwarul Kabir Babul.

Many top officials of the government had assured the Rana Plaza victims of justice. But the trial process is yet to make any significant progress and most of the accused are enjoying free life after taking bail from the courts, rights activists alleged.

Legal experts said ensuring trial for the victims in the cases is very difficult within a short time if the prosecution does not take any special initiative for disposal of the cases as a total of 724 people have been made witnesses in the cases.

Earlier on June 1 in 2015, CID Assistant Police Super Bijoy Krishna Kar submitted two charge sheets against 42 people, including Sohel Rana, in two cases.

A charge sheet was submitted against 41 people, including Sohel Rana, his parents and five factory owners, in a murder case filed under the penal code while another charge sheet was submitted against 18 people in a case filed for violation of building code.

During investigation, the CID found that Sohel Rana and managements of the five factories had forced workers to enter the building against their will, even though the building had developed major cracks a day before the collapse. That is why charges of murder instead of culpable homicide were brought against the 41 accused, the charge sheet said.

The probe report also mentioned that 18 people were made accused as they violated the building code by constructing four additional floors on the top of the original five-storey building. Built with substandard materials, the building also had structural flaws.

Apart from the two cases, another case filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission against 18 people, including Sohel Rana and his parents, is pending with a Dhaka court.

Source: Daily Sun, Dhaka, Bangladesh

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