DHAKA: Bangladeshi lawyers and protesters chanted ‘hang him, hang him’ today as the owner of a factory building that collapsed last week killing nearly 400 people was led into court dressed in a helmet and bullet-proof jacket, witnesses said.
The drama came as rescue officials said they were unlikely to find more survivors in the rubble of the building that collapsed on Wednesday, burying hundreds of garment workers in the country’s worst industrial accident.
Heavy cranes were being used to lift huge concrete blocks from the wreckage of Rana Plaza, where 385 people are now confirmed to have been killed. The building housed factories making clothes for Western brands.
Eight people have been arrested — four factory bosses, two engineers, building owner Mohammed Sohel Rana and his father, Abdul Khalek. Police are looking for a fifth factory boss, David Mayor, who they said was a Spanish citizen.
Rana, a local leader of the ruling Awami League’s youth front, was shown on television being brought to Dhaka in handcuffs after he was seized in the border town of Benapole by the elite Rapid Action Battalion following a four-day manhunt. Rana was arrested by police commandos on Sunday. “Put the killer on the gallows, he is not worth of any mercy or lenient penalty,” one onlooker outside the court shouted. The court ordered that Rana be held for 15 days ‘on remand’ for interrogation. Khalek, who officials said was named in documents as a legal owner of the building, was arrested in Dhaka today. Those being held face charges of faulty construction and causing unlawful death.
Bangladesh does carry out the death penalty for murder and for most serious categories of manslaughter. Hundreds of the mostly female workers who are thought to have been inside the building when it caved in remain unaccounted for. A fire overnight further hampered the last desperate efforts to find survivors. “We are giving the highest priority to saving people, but there is little hope of finding anyone alive,” army spokesman Shahinul Islam told reporters at the site. About 2,500 people have been rescued from the wrecked building in the commercial suburb of Savar, about 30 km from the Capital, Dhaka.Late yesterday, sparks from rescuers’ cutting equipment started a fire in the debris as they raced to save a woman who may have been the last survivor in the rubble. Her body was recovered this afternoon.
Officials said the eight-storey complex had been built on swampy ground without the correct permits, and more than 3,000 workers — most of them young women — entered the building on Wednesday morning despite warnings that it was structurally unsafe.