German court rejects Pakistanis’ suit against clothing company over Baldia factory fire

January 10, 2019

Photo: AFP

A German court rejected on Thursday a lawsuit by Pakistani plaintiffs against clothing retailer KiK over a deadly 2012 fire at a Baldia Town garment factory, saying the statute of limitations had expired.

The blaze at the Ali Enterprises factory killed at least 258 people.

Nine accused, including MQM leader Rauf Siddiqui, former sector in-charge Abdul Rehman alias Bhola, Zubair alias Chariya and party’s former KTC chief, were charged with allegedly setting ablaze the factory with the help of its four gatekeepers Shahrukh, Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood and Ali Mohammad.

A survivor and three relatives of victims had sought damages for pain and suffering from KiK of 30,000 euros ($34,600) each.

Related story: Baldia factory fire: Five years on, perpetrators still at large

They argued that, although KiK did not cause the fire, it shared blame for a lack of safety measures at the factory.

But a spokesman for the regional court in Dortmund said judges agreed with a court-appointed expert’s finding that the civil suit was not filed within the applicable two-year period.

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), a Berlin-based rights group supporting the plaintiffs, said it was considering appealing the ruling.

Baldia factory fire case: ATC indicts Rauf Siddiqui, other suspects

“KiK was the factory’s main customer and therefore bears some of the responsibility for the inadequate fire safety measures,” lawyer Remo Klinger, who represented the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

KiK, which has paid over $6.0 million in compensation to survivors and victims’ families, has rejected liability for the fatal fire.

“KiK evades the legal responsibility for the death of 258 people, but at least a German court was willing to look into the case in the first place,” said claimant Saeeda Khatoon, whose son died in the inferno.

“I am very sad that our voice was not heard by the court. We lost our children in the 2012 factory fire. It seems that nobody cares for the poor workers. It was a decision in favor of the companies. But I will not stop my fight for our rights,” Khatoon told DW.

Related story: Who is Bhola – the Baldia factory fire suspect?

Gunther Lehleiter, an attorney representing KiK, told DW that the decision was a “sound ruling” because the fire was a “terrorist incident” and did not result from the factory being in poor condition.

A lack of emergency exits, fire extinguishers and clearly marked escape routes contributed to the fire’s heavy toll, according to experts cited by the ECCHR.

 
 
 
 
 


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