Global leaders call for suspension of legal action against Bangladeshi Nobel laureate Yunus

More than 170 global leaders and Nobel laureates wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Hasina, urging her to suspend legal proceedings against Yunus

Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus (Photo Courtesy: nobelprize)
Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus (Photo Courtesy: nobelprize)


Concerned over the several court cases against Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, more than 170 global leaders, including former US president Barack Obama, have urged Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to suspend all legal actions against the pioneer of microfinancing.

Yunus, 83, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his anti-poverty campaign, earning Bangladesh the repute of being the home of microcredit through his Grameen Bank, which he founded in 1983.

More than 170 global leaders and Nobel laureates wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Hasina, urging her to suspend legal proceedings against Yunus.

The signatories included Obama, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and more than 100 Nobel laureates.

"One of the threats to human rights that concern us in the present context is the case of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Prof. Muhammad Yunus. We are alarmed that he has recently been targeted by what we believe to be continuous judicial harassment,” the letter said.

“We are confident that any thorough review of the anti-corruption and labour law cases against him will result in his acquittal,” it added.

Clinton reinforced her support for Yunus, urging the international community to wage a campaign for an “end to his persecution” as the economist faces several court cases on charges of violating financial and labour laws.

In her post on the social media platforms Facebook and X on Tuesday, Clinton wrote, “Stand with me and more than 160 other global leaders to support great humanitarian and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus in his moment of need.” "Join the movement to demand an end to his persecution," wrote Clinton, wife of former US president Bill Clinton.

In a quick response on Monday, Hasina suggested that international dignitaries send experts to review allegations against Yunus.

Asserting that she believed the expert's review would reveal more allegations against him, the prime minister added that Bangladesh’s judiciary was independent.

Accusing Yunus of “begging” for the statement, she said, “If the gentleman (Dr Yunus) had so much self-confidence that he had committed no crime, he would not be begging for a statement at that international level.” The economist was on a protracted row with the incumbent government due to obscure reasons. The Hasina-led administration began a series of investigations against him after coming to power in 2008.

Many people believe that Hasina became enraged when Yunus announced he would form a political party in 2007 when the country was run by a military-backed government, and she was in prison.

However, Yunus did not follow through on the plan, but criticised politicians in the country, alleging they were only interested in money.

Hasina's government began a review of the Grameen Bank's activities in 2011 and fired Yunus as its founding managing director on charges of violating government retirement regulations.

He was put on trial in 2013 on charges of receiving money without government permission, including his Nobel Prize award and royalties from a book.

Hasina 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.

After his prolonged efforts to settle disputes with the government, Yunus blasted the government for paving the way for the “destruction” of the pioneering micro-lending bank he founded.

Earlier this month, 18 former Grameen Telecom workers filed a case against Yunus, accusing him of siphoning off their job benefits. Yunus’ counsels called the case harassment and vowed to fight the allegations.

Separately, Yunus went on trial in August 2022 on charges of violating labour laws.

The economist and 13 others were also named in a case brought by the Anti-Corruption Commission accusing them of embezzling funds from Grameen Telecom.

In September 2019, a Dhaka court issued a warrant to arrest Yunus as he failed to appear in person over a case relating to the firing of three employees of the IT company that he heads as the chairman.

He was later granted bail after his court appearance. 

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Published: 31 Aug 2023, 8:53 AM