Dhaka: Noble Peace Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus sentenced to six months jail for violating Bangladesh’s labor laws in a verdict denounced by his supporters as politically motivated.
"Professor Yunus and three of his Grameen Telecom colleagues were convicted under labor laws and sentenced to six months in simple imprisonment," prosecutor Khurshid Alam Khan said in a statement. All four denied the charges and immediately granted bail pending appeals.
The 83 years old Pioneer, Yunus, has been credited with lifting millions out of poverty with his microfinance bank named Grameen Bank but has earned the enmity of long time Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who has been accused him of ‘sucking blood’ from the poor.
Hasina has made several severe allegations against the internationally recognized development hero, who was once seen as a political rival.
Yunus and three colleagues were accused of violating labor laws when they failed to make 67 temporary employees permanent, for not creating a workers’ welfare fund in the company, and failing to distribute 5% of the company’s dividends to them. At least 199 cases have been filed against him for violating labor laws and stealing funds from some of the more than 50 social business firms that he had set up in the country.
“I have been punished for a crime that I haven’t committed,” Yunus told the media after the hearing. “If you want to call it justice, you can.”
In response, rights activists and supporter of Yunus has expressed extreme anger and shock over the verdict. His supporters called it ‘a politically motivated step.” While the activists decried the case and said Sheikh Hasina-led government began harassing him largely because the prime minister viewed him as a potential political threat.
"For his work among the poor, Professor Muhammad Yunus got a Nobel Prize, brought honor to Bangladesh and was hailed as a global social business hero,” said Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman of the Capital Punishment Justice Project, which has been documenting rights violations in Bangladesh for more than 15 years. “Now using the judiciary, the government is harassing and humiliating him on frivolous grounds. The conviction is indeed a travesty of justice,” as Voice of America reported.
Yunus founded Grameen Bank in 1983 for millions poor people who are unable to procure loans from conventional banks. He provided them with microloans. And won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his community level development projects in Bangladesh.
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