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Arrest warrants for factory owners

A Bangladeshi court has issued arrest warrants for two owners of a clothing factory and four of their employees on homicide charges over the deaths of 112 workers in a fire last year.

Prosecutor Anwarul Kabir Babul said that Judge Wasim Sheikh issued the arrest warrants for the six, including owners Delwar Hossain and his wife, Mahmuda Akter.

Police said the six have fled and it is not known where they are. If they are not found by February 25 when the court sits, they could be tried in absentia for charges connected with the fire that destroyed the Tazreen Fashions factory on the outskirts of Dhaka in November 2012.

It is the first time Bangladeshi authorities had sought to prosecute factory owners in the country's lucrative garments industry, which is the world's second largest after China.

A series of deadly disasters - including the fire and a factory collapse in April that killed more than 1,100 workers - has exposed how harsh and often unsafe conditions are for many of the country's four million workers providing clothing to major western retailers.

Mr Babul said a decision on when the trial would begin would be taken on February 25 when police are to update the court on what they have done to find the six.

He said the accused face a minimum of seven years in prison up to a life sentence if they are convicted of failing to ensure safety at the sprawling facility.

The factory, which produced clothing for global brands including Wal-Mart, had no emergency fire exits, while its location in a narrow alley meant firefighters were unable to reach the flames.

The investigation said that managers and security guards told the workers that the blaze was part of a regular fire drill when it broke out.

Bangladesh earns more than 20 billion dollars (£14.5 billion) a year from garment exports, mainly to the United States and Europe.

AP

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