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Dhaka Tribune

Churihatta fire: Families await justice even after 5 years

  • The lawyers concerned unable to say when the trial will be completed
  • Case pending at the court of additional metropolitan sessions judge
  • 71 people lost their lives in the incident 
Update : 21 Feb 2024, 09:31 AM

Five years have passed since the Churihatta fire incident, in which 71 people lost their lives following a devastating explosion originating from chemicals stored in Wahed Mansion.

However, the family members are still waiting for justice, and the lawyers concerned are unable to say when the trial will be completed.

Currently, the case is pending at the court of Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge Aminul Islam. 

Abdul Qayyum, officer-in-charge of Chawkbazar model police station and investigation officer of the case, filed a charge sheet against the owners of Wahed Mansion. The court ordered the trial to begin on January 31, 2023, framing charges against the accused. Asif Ahmed, the plaintiff in the case, testified on October 17 last year. But his interrogation is not over yet. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for March 21, 2024. There are a total of 167 witnesses in this case. 

Asif Ahmed, the plaintiff and also the son of a victim named Jumman, said: “Every year when this day comes, people inquire about it, and on other days no one cares about how we are or how our family is doing. In other words, we are much better than others. But many families are going through the worst with the loss of their sole breadwinner.”

Asif Ahmed said: “Five years have passed. The trial of the case has not started properly yet. The last time I gave testimony in court was in October last year. No further inquiries were made. I could not finish my testimony properly due to a time petition filed by the accused. I don't even know when the next hearing of the case will be held.”

He said: "If this is the situation, then how will the trial proceed? We have nothing to do but wait for justice. But I will be happy with the punishment that the court gives to the guilty.”

After the loss of his father, he has not received any kind of government grant so far, Asif complained. "Even though the city corporation promised to give me a job, it was not given. A few of the 66 affected families have found jobs, but the rest have not been contacted. I have not received even a single penny from the city corporation or from the government so far,” Asif added.

He complained that he tried to meet the current mayor several times but to no avail.

Asif also said: “The place has become what it was five years ago. There is no way to recognize that building now. There are new offices and shops. Amid all these, I lost my father. 66 families lost their lone source of income. We urge the government to look at this matter with a little sympathy. Then we can live a little better then.”

Devastating fire

On February 20, 2019, the fire broke out at the chemical warehouse at Wahed Mansion around 10:30pm.

The fire also spread to neighbouring buildings. Thirty-seven firefighting units brought the inferno under control after working tirelessly for 14 hours. Autopsy reports said all the victims were burned alive.

The following day, Asif Ahmed, filed the case in connection with massive damages, including the loss of many lives due to negligence. 

The accused are owners of Wahed Mansion, Mohammad Hasan Sultan and Mohammad Hossain Sultan alias Sohel, and owners of chemical warehouses Imtiaz Ahmed, Mozammel Iqbal, Mozaffar Uddin, Mohammad Jawad Atiq, Mohammad Nabil, and Kashif.

Of them, the two brothers, Mohammad Hasan Sultan and Mohammad Hossain Sultan, were arrested following the incident, and later they were released on bail while the rest secured bail from different courts on different dates.

Legal battle 

About the case, public prosecutor Abdullah Abu said: “Everyone concerned has the responsibility to complete the trial of the case in a speedy manner. The state is trying to finish the trial. However, the trial is being delayed as the witnesses have not appeared in court despite being summoned.”

He said: "The duty of the state is to summon the witnesses. It is the responsibility of the police officers of the concerned police station to produce the witnesses. Both parties have to be responsible here. If necessary, non-bailable arrest warrants should be issued against the witnesses. The state wants the trial of the case to end quickly, and the victim's family to get justice.”

Meanwhile, the lawyer for the accused, Mustafa Pathan (Farooq), said: “After the trial of the case began, only one person's statement has been recorded, but his interrogation has not been completed yet. In that case, the accused are being victimized. The defendants themselves have suffered. How they got implicated in this incident, I don't know. The defendants are not at fault here. It was just an accident.”

This lawyer also said that if the state is more sincere, the trial of the case will end quickly. Due to the delay in the trial, the accused are suffering financially and emotionally. He demanded the acquittal of all the accused.

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