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Bangladesh Court Sentences Nobel Laureate Yunus to Jail Amidst Labor Law Violations

Also, the court granted a month's Dr Yunus bail, on condition of filing an appeal against the verdict in the labour law violation case

January 1, 2024 1:06 pm

Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus
Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. File Photo

Dhaka: In a pivotal development, Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, renowned for pioneering microcredit to uplift impoverished communities, has been sentenced to six months in jail by a labor court in Bangladesh. The verdict, handed down by Sheikh Merina Sultana, head of the Third Labor Court of Dhaka, cites violations of labor laws by Grameen Telecom, a non-profit founded by Yunus.

The court highlighted specific infractions, including the failure to make 67 Grameen Telecom employees permanent, non-formation of employees’ participation and welfare funds, and the company’s non-compliance with the policy to distribute 5% of dividends to staff. Grameen Telecom, which owns a significant stake in Grameenphone, the country’s largest mobile phone company, is central to the legal proceedings.

The verdict comes amid a broader political context in Bangladesh, where the country is gearing up for its upcoming general election on Jan. 7. The main opposition, Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, has opted to boycott the election, expressing a lack of confidence in the current administration’s ability to conduct a free and fair election.

Yunus has also been facing charges of corruption and fund embezzlement, with his supporters contending that the allegations are politically motivated. In August, over 170 global leaders and Nobel laureates, including former U.S. President Barack Obama and former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to suspend all legal proceedings against Yunus, expressing concerns about threats to democracy and human rights in Bangladesh.

Prime Minister Hasina responded by welcoming international experts and lawyers to assess the legal proceedings and examine documents related to the charges against Yunus. The longstanding tensions between Hasina’s administration and Yunus trace back to 2007 when Yunus announced plans to form a political party during a military-backed government’s rule. This move reportedly angered Hasina, who accused Yunus of being a “bloodsucker” and criticized his loan recovery methods at Grameen Bank.

Yunus, who founded Grameen Bank in 1983, has been a transformative figure in microfinance, providing small loans to entrepreneurs overlooked by traditional banking systems. Despite the legal challenges, Yunus remains a symbol of poverty alleviation through innovative financial solutions, and his case continues to draw international attention.

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