NEW DELHI — The police in Bangladesh charged the owners of a garment factory and 11 of their employees with culpable homicide in the deaths of 112 workers in a fire last year that came to symbolize the appalling working conditions in the country’s dominant textile industry.
The case is the first time the authorities have sought to prosecute factory owners in Bangladesh’s garment industry, so powerful that the state has long sought to protect owners from unionization efforts by workers and from international scrutiny of working conditions.
The fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory on Nov. 24, 2012, was later eclipsed by a building collapse in April that cost the lives of 1,100 workers and brought global attention to the unsafe working conditions and low wages at many garment factories in Bangladesh, the No. 2 exporter of apparel after China. The fire also revealed the poor controls that top retailers had throughout their supply chain, since retailers like Walmart said they were unaware that their apparel was being made in such factories.
Among those charged on Sunday were the factory’s owners, Delowar Hossain and his wife, Mahmuda Akther, as well as M. Mahbubul Morshed, an engineer, and Abdur Razzaq, the factory manager, according to local news reports.
Bangladeshi officials have been under intense domestic and international pressure to file charges against those deemed responsible for last year’s deaths. Fires have been a persistent problem in...