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24 Nov 2022

Emrul Hasan Bappi & Chaitanya Chandra Halder, The Daily Star

Bangladesh: Ten years on, victims of Tazreen still await justice as trial proceedings lag over failure to produce witnesses for depositions

"Tazreen Tragedy: The never-ending wait", 24 November 2022

Maya Begum, a survivor of the blaze that engulfed Tazreen factory 10 years ago, is losing all hope for justice, or financial assistance for that matter, as proceedings of the case centring this incident is progressing at a snail's pace...

A day after the massive fire on November 24, 2012 -- which killed over 112 workers and wounded scores -- a case was filed with Ashulia Police Station.

The trial proceedings have made no satisfactory headway in the last seven years due to the prosecution's failure to produce the witnesses before the court for depositions.

Only 11 out of the 104 prosecution witnesses gave their depositions before the court after charges were framed, a court staffer told The Daily Star.

Mirazul Islam, a supervisor of the factory, gave his deposition on May 18 this year. Since then, no witnesses came to the court for deposition, he said.

From May to August this year, the court issued non-bailable arrest warrants against eight absentee witnesses and summonses against another six witnesses for failing to comply with multiple court orders.

However, they still did not appear for depositions, according to the court's records.

"The witnesses have not been produced before court for deposition due to a lack of the government's logistical support, which is delaying trial proceedings," said AKM Shah Newaz, an additional public prosecutor of the First Additional District and Sessions Judge's Court of Dhaka.

"If the prosecution is not vigilant while implementing the court's summonses and non-bailable arrest warrants on time, they will fail to produce the witnesses before the court for depositions," Khurshid Alam Khan, a criminal law expert, told The Daily Star. "And so, the trial proceedings move slowly."

On December 2, 2013, AKM Mohsin Uzzaman Khan, an inspector of police's Criminal Investigation Department, submitted a charge sheet against Tazreen Fashions owner Delwar Hossain, his wife Mahmuda Akter Mita and its 11 employees.

The court framed charges against 13 accused on September 3, 2015. Of the accused, nine, including Delwar and his wife, are now on bail. The rest are on the run.