Police in Bangladesh filed the first formal murder charges Monday against dozens of individuals over the 2013 collapse of a garment factory building, killing more than 1,130 people.
The collapse of Rana Plaza, built on swampy ground outside the capital, Dhaka, ranks amongst the world's worst industrial accidents, and sparked an outcry for greater safety in the world's second-largest exporter of ready-made garments.
In all, 42 people were charged over the disaster, a rare step in a country where critics complain that powerful garment industry bosses often go unpunished for factory accidents.
"We pressed charges against 42 people, including owner Sohel Rana, in two cases filed over the building collapse," said lead investigator Bijoy Krishna Kar, adding that one case was for murder and the other over a breach in construction rules.
The police report called the deaths a "mass killing." About 2,500 people were injured in the disaster.
If convicted of murder, the defendants could face the death penalty.
About 4 million people work in Bangladesh's garment industry, some earning as little as $38 a month. The sector helps Bangladesh earn more than $20 billion a year from exports, mainly to the United States and Europe.
Kar, who submitted the charges to a court in Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital, said a hearing would take place June 28 to decide on further proceedings.
In a separate case, the accused will also face charges of violating safety rules in building Rana Plaza because additional floors were added to the original five-story building, which was actually meant for office and shopping malls. Later, illegally built upper floors were transformed into factories.
Rana was arrested after a four-day hunt shortly after the April 2013 building collapse, apparently trying to flee across the border to neighboring India.