Nobel laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus’s six-month prison sentence, concerns the international community

The Bangladeshi court sentenced four people including Muhammad Yunus to six months imprisonment and each of them has been fined 30 thousand takas. Judge Begum Sheikh Marina Sultana of the Third Labor Court of Dhaka gave this judgment on Monday afternoon, January 1, 2024. All four including Yunus were present in the court for the verdict.

After the announcement of the verdict, Dr. on the condition of appeal to the high court. The same court granted one-month interim bail to all four including Yunus. After getting bail out of the court Dr. Muhammad Yunus told reporters, “I was punished for a crime I didn’t commit.” This sadness remained in my mind.

The case was filed against four people including Yunus. The case was filed on June 6 last year. Testimony began on 22 August, ending on 9 November. Arguments ended on December 24.

It was alleged in the case that according to the Labor Act 2006 and Labor Rules 2015, the employment of the workers or employees of Grameen Telecom was not made permanent even after completing the apprenticeship period. Annual leave, encashment of leave and cash against leave was not given to workers or employees working in the organization. In Grameen Telecom, Labor Participation Fund and Welfare Fund have not been constituted and the amount equivalent to 5 percent of the dividend has not been deposited in the Fund constituted under the Labor Welfare Foundation Act.

“Unprecedented Judgment”

Muhammad Yunus’s lawyer Abdullah Al Mamun told reporters that this verdict is unprecedented. The judgment will be appealed to the High Court within the stipulated time.

Lawyer Abdullah Al Mamun also said the labor law states that if the worker’s annual salary is not paid, it will be added to his basic salary later. It is not a crime. If 5 percent of the dividend is not paid to the workers, the authorities will fix the time of payment as per the labor law. Penalties will be imposed after the deadline. There are still many steps. But without taking these steps or procedures, civil criminal cases have been filed.

Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and former Secretary General of Amnesty International, human rights activist Farida Akhtar, photographer Shahidul Alam, Professor Rehnuma Ahmed, Sharmin Murshid, Professor Asif Nazrul, lawyer Sara Hossain and others were present in the courtroom during the verdict announcement.

Dr. Irene Khan expressed surprise at Yunus’s sentence. He told reporters, “There are many violators of labor laws in this country. How workers are fighting for fair dues. The labor leader is being shot dead. But the law made a weapon. A Nobel laureate like Yunus was punished. It is politicization of justice system.”

We want the world to respect us. But whom the world honors, we dishonor

Who is this Dr. Yunus, who was convicted of violating labor laws and sentenced to six months imprisonment and a fine of taka 30,000 ? Those whose names are pronounced as the most respected and recognized around the world, Dr. Yunus is one of them. He is the originator of an idea that has taken the developed world by storm, helping to lift millions of people out of poverty in many countries, even in the richest and most advanced countries.

It is the giving of loans to the poor in small form, called ‘micro-credit’. The banking system, the pillar of the modern capitalist economy, excludes the poor from banking facilities by terming them ‘unbankable’, as they have no collateral to guarantee against loans. The concept of “microcredit” challenges this view by lending to the resourceless poor.

His idea opens up a new world of credit to billions of people around the world who could not take up business ventures even on a small scale due to lack of capital. He wants to say that it is the right of people to get “loans“. His approach to women-centered microfinance, the fight against poverty with “helpless women”, broke numerous social restrictions and age-old superstitions.

By repaying 97-99 percent of cases, the women have challenged the fear of bank failure and default rates that even the world’s best banks face. Not to mention the banking sector of our country which is plagued with financial scams, frauds and defaults.

His thinking was not limited to giving loans to the poor, but also included teaching them how to start a business, manage it, keep accounts, run a business. Through this, the poor population has become a productive class from the burden of the society. Government policy has a lot to do with the productivity revolution we are witnessing in our villages today.

But this “microcredit” has played at least an equal role if not more than this, which has acted as a key regulator for the poor people in our villages to become skilled entrepreneurs. Simply put, it weaves together two types of social change – one economic and the other social. First, to help the poor and second, to extend a helping hand to women, the most deprived section of the poor.

When the world recognizes and honors his contributions, we send him to prison

Professor Yunus has received 61 honorary degrees from different universities in 24 countries around the world. He has received 136 honors from 33 countries, including state honors from 10 countries. Received royal honors of European countries.

He received the Les Justes D’or Award of the Year of France (1998), and the Medal of the Painter Oswald Guayasmin Award France (2003). 

Fortune magazine named him “One of the Greatest Entrepreneurs of All Time” in 2012. He has been featured on the covers of Time, Newsweek and Forbes magazines. He is one of only seven people in history to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the United States Congressional Gold Medal.

107 universities in 39 countries around the world have social business-focused departments, centers or academic programs, collectively known as Yunus Social Business Centers. The International Olympic Committee awarded him the “Olympic Laurel” at the Tokyo Olympics.

He was recently given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the World Football Summit held in Saudi Arabia. In addition, he has served at an advisory level to almost all multilateral organizations, including the United Nations and non-governmental global foundations. Apart from this, he has received royal honors from several European countries.

The news of Dr. Yunus’ imprisonment has been published by the international media

According to the report of the AFP news agency, Dr. Yunus is admired worldwide, but has a strong influence in Bangladesh.

According to Reuters report, Dr. Yunus and his Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for lifting millions of people out of poverty by providing microloans of less than $100 to the rural poor of Bangladesh. His program, now known as microfinance, is now a pioneer of the global movement. However, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina accused him of “sucking the blood of the poor”.

The Guardian published a report titled “Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus found guilty of violating Bangladesh’s labor laws”. It is said that in 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Sheikh Hasina has made several adverse comments about Dr. Yunus. It also mentions that Yunus was once seen as a political rival.

Al Jazeera reports, “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has accused micro-lenders of ‘bloodsucking’ the poor. But her supporters say the charges are politically motivated.”

Professor Muhammad Yunus is internationally recognized for his contribution to poverty alleviation and women’s empowerment,” reports the Indian media Hindustan Times.

Some other top international media including BBC. The report on Yunus’ sentence has been published.

The Washington Post reports on Dr. Yunus’s prison sentence. The report also mentions the letter of 170 world personalities, including more than 100 Nobel laureates, demanding the withdrawal of all cases filed against Dr. Yunus.

Jamil Ahmed

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