Nobel laureate Yunus convicted in Bangladesh labor law case

Nobel laureate Yunus convicted in Bangladesh labor law case

DHAKA — A court in Bangladesh on Monday sentenced Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus to six months in prison for labor law violations, prosecutors said, for what he said was a crime he did not commit.

Mr. Yunus, 83, and his Grameen Bank won the 2006 peace prize for their work to lift millions out of poverty by granting tiny loans of under $100 to the rural poor of Bangladesh, pioneering a global movement now known as microcredit.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, however, accused him of “sucking blood from the poor.” His supporters say the government is attempting to discredit him because he once considered setting up a political party to rival Ms. Hasina’s Awami League.

Mr. Yunus, an economist, and three employees from Grameen Telecom, a company he founded, were convicted on Monday of failing to create a welfare fund for its employees.

“This verdict against me is contrary to all legal precedent and logic. I call for the Bangladeshi people to speak in one voice against injustice and in favor of democracy and human rights for each and every one of our citizens,” he said in a statement after the verdict.

Responding to petitions submitted by the accused, the court granted them bail pending a possible appeal.

“The court granted their bail, giving them one month to file an appeal against the verdict of the court,” prosecutor Khurshid Alam Khan said.

Abdullah Al Mamun, a lawyer for Mr. Yunus, said the accused would appeal against the verdict, describing the case as politically motivated and aimed at harassing Mr. Yunus.

Mr. Yunus is facing more than 100 other charges over labor law violations and alleged corruption.

Human rights groups have accused the government of Ms. Hasina of targeting political dissent.

Ms. Hasina is seeking a fifth term — and her fourth consecutive one — in an election on Jan. 7 which the main opposition party has boycotted. — Reuters