Asia Pacific

Arrest warrant issued for Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus over labor turmoil at Grameen Communications

AFP-JIJI

Bangladeshi economist and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus has been issued an arrest warrant after failing to appear at a hearing over the sacking of workers at a company he heads, officials said Thursday.

A judge at a court in Dhaka issued the order Wednesday as fired workers at Grameen Communications lodged a complaint saying they were let go because they set up a trade union, court clerk M. Nuruzzaman said.

Yunus, who is chairman of GC, did not attend the hearing because he was abroad. The chief executive officer and a senior manager at the company appeared in court and secured bail, Nuruzzaman said.

“He (Yunus) left Bangladesh before receiving any summons for appearing before the court. As soon as he returns, an appropriate legal step shall be taken,” said Yunus’ lawyer, Kazi Ershadul Alam.

The 79-year-old former economics professor who founded the pioneering poverty-busting microlender Grameen Bank has been at odds with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina since 2007, when he made a brief foray into the country’s highly polarized politics.

In 2011 he was sacked as head of Grameen Bank in a move widely believed to have been orchestrated by Hasina. He challenged the move in the highest court, but lost.

Yunus set up the Bank, which co-won the Nobel with him in 2006, in 1983 to make collateral-free microloans to millions of rural entrepreneurs. The bank is now run by managers appointed by Hasina.

Hasina has accused him of “sucking blood” from the poor amid allegations the bank charges interest rates of more than 20 percent, and suggested he was responsible for the World Bank pulling a $1.2 billion loan for a giant bridge project.

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