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Bangladesh factory owners agree to face charges


DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Two owners of a Bangladesh garment factory where 112 workers died in a fire two years ago surrendered on Sunday and sought bail after they were charged with homicide.

The factory outside the capital, Dhaka, which produced clothing for big retailers including Wal-Mart, had no emergency exits and its location in a narrow alley prevented firefighters from responding quickly to the deadly blaze in November 2012, said prosecutor Anwarul Kabir Babul.

The investigation found that when the fire broke out, managers and security guards told workers it was part of a regular drill and it was too late for many to escape. Workers found the gates locked from outside as the fire engulfed the sprawling building, according to the investigation.

The two owners of Tazreen Fashions Ltd., Delwar Hossain and his wife, Mahmuda Akter, appeared in court for a hearing later Sunday. They are among 13 people facing charges in the case, one of several deadly disasters that have exposed harsh and unsafe working conditions in Bangladesh's garment industry. A factory collapse in April last year killed more than 1,100 workers.

The impoverished South Asian nation earns more than $20 billion a year from garment exports, mainly to the United States and Europe.

Babul said that if found guilty, the accused face a minimum of seven years and up to life in prison. Out of the 13 accused, four are still at large.

It was the first time Bangladesh has sought to prosecute factory owners in the lucrative garment industry, which is the world's second largest after China.