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Updated January 1st, 2024 at 20:20 IST

Bangladeshi Nobel laureate economist Yunus gets jail term for violating labour laws

Sheikh Hasina has called Yunus a “bloodsucker" and accused him of using force and other means to recover loans from poor rural women as head of Grameen Bank

Reported by: Digital Desk
Nobel laureate economist Dr Muhammad Yunus
Nobel laureate economist Dr Muhammad Yunus | Image:PTI
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DHAKA: On Monday, Bangladeshi Nobel laureate Dr Mohammad Yunus was sentenced to six months in jail by a court for violating the nation's labour laws. According to a report by PTI, the verdict, coming ahead of the nation's January 7 general election, has been termed as ‘politically motivated’ by his supporters. Yunus (83), Nobel laureate who was awarded in 2006 for his anti-poverty campaign, sought bail from the court which immediately granted for a Tk 5,000 bond. The court also gave the defence 30 days to appeal the verdict that was passed on Monday. 

Yunus stands accused of violating the nation's labour laws as the chairman of Grameen Telecom, one of the firms he founded, alongside three other executives of the company. Specifically, Yunus and the executives are accused of not creating a workers' welfare fund in the social business company. 

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Yunus and the other three executives have been sentenced to six months of non-rigorous imprisonment alongside a fine of Tk 25,000 each, which, if not paid, will result in another 10 days of jail time. 

The Nobel laureate is also facing several other charges related to violations of the labour laws and misappropriation of funds, charges that his lawyers insist are “meritless, false and ill-motivated”. They claim that the charges are aimed at humiliating him before the international community. 

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Dr Yunus has reportedly been targeted by multiple investigations by the Sheikh Hasina government after it first came to power in 2008. In 2011, the activities of the Grameen Bank were investigated and Yunus was fired as the founding managing director on charges of violating government retirement regulations.

In 2013, he was once again on trial, this time for accepting money without government permission, a charge that included the money he made from his Nobel Prize win and royalties from a book he authored.

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In 2023, 18 of his own employees accused him of siphoning-off their job benefits. The Nobel laureate was also named alongside 13 others in a case brought against him by the Anti Corruption Commission for reportedly embezzling funds. 

Sheikh Hasina has called Yunus a “bloodsucker" and accused him of using force and other means to recover loans from poor rural women as head of Grameen Bank. Yunus, in turn, has reportedly condemned the government for the “destruction” of the micro-lending bank he created. 

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According to the aforementioned PTI report, there is a general perception that Yunus ended up on the wrongside of the Hasina government when he announced he would form a new political party back in 2007 when Hasina was still imprisoned by the military-backed government. 

Last year, a number of prominent world leaders and Nobel laureates wrote an open letter to Hasina, calling on her to suspend legal proceedings against Yunus. 

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Published January 1st, 2024 at 20:20 IST

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