Crime & Justice

Bangladeshi Nobel laureate Yunus appeals six-month jail sentence

Dhaka, Jan 28 (EFE).- Bangladeshi Nobel Peace laureate Mohammad Yunus and three of his colleagues filed an appeal in court on Sunday against their six-month jail sentence for violating labor laws in a case that his supporters say is politically motivated.

“We have submitted our appeal to the court today. The court accepted our appeal for hearing, suspended the lower court verdict, and granted all bails until the disposal of the appeal,” Yunus’ lawyer, Abdullah Al Mamun, told EFE.

Mamun added that the court had fixed Mar. 3 for a review of the lower court’s documents.

Yunus was present when the appeal was filed with the Labour Appellate Tribunal against the verdict handed to him and his colleagues at the Grameen Telecom nonprofit earlier this month.

The Nobel Peace laureate and his colleagues, who were also fined taka 30,000 ($272), were granted bail for one month pending appeal after the verdict against them was announced on Jan. 1.

After the ruling, Yunus said it was punishment for a crime they “did not commit.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Irene Khan, who was present at the court on Jan.1 called the verdict a “travesty of justice” and criticized the weaponization of the labor tribunal against a Nobel Peace laureate.

On Sep. 9, 2021, a labor inspector filed a case against Yunus and the others on charges of not setting up the Workers’ Contributory Fund and Welfare Fund, as well as for not depositing 5 percent share of net profits to the concerned workers’ welfare funds since 2006.

Other charges included not making the jobs of workers permanent after the end of their probationary period and not giving workers a leave benefit.

The verdict against Yunus was delivered seven days before Bangladesh’s general election on Jan. 7.

Yunus has been facing over 170 cases over allegations of corruption, money laundering, tax dodging, and labor law violations.

In an open letter on Aug.28 to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, 176 global leaders, including ex-US President Barack Obama, ex-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and more than 100 Nobel laureates, expressed concern at the “continuous judicial harassment” against Yunus.

Twelve US senators raised similar concerns in a letter to Hasina on Jan.22.

Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, along with the Grameen Bank he founded in 1976.

Bangladesh authorities removed him as Grameen Bank managing director in 2011. Grameen Telecom and Grameen Bank are two separate organizations.

Yunus has had a strained relationship with Bangladeshi authorities since a documentary in 2010 alleged illegal fund transfers between the two entities of the Grameen Group.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Hasina has criticized Yunus for allegedly influencing the World Bank to cancel funding for the construction of a mega bridge project, an allegation he denies. EFE


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