Bangladesh police charged the two owners of the Tazreen Fashions factory and 11 employees with culpable homicide Sunday over the nation's deadliest-ever garment factory fire, which killed 112 workers last year.
It was the first time Bangladeshi authorities had sought to prosecute factory owners. A series of recent deadly disasters — including the fire on Nov. 24, 2012, and a factory collapse in April that killed more than 1,100 workers — exposed how harsh and unsafe conditions can be for many of the country's 4 million workers providing clothing to major Western retailers.
Public Prosecutor Anwarul Kabir Babul said the 13 people charged Sunday could face life in prison if convicted of failing to ensure safety at the sprawling Tazreen Fashions Ltd. factory, located outside Dhaka, the capital.
But a union leader reacted angrily to the charges, saying they were too lenient, and predicted that the cases would drag on for years.
"The owners were directly responsible for the murder of more than 100 workers. Yet they are not charged with murder," Babul Akter, head of the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation, told news agency Agence France-Presse.