Yunus suggests Hasina government behind labour law case against him

He has secured bail and appealed against the six-month prison sentence

Published : 28 Jan 2024, 03:58 PM
Updated : 28 Jan 2024, 03:58 PM

Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus has suggested that the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is behind the labour law case in which he and three others have been sentenced to six months in prison.

Hasina, a staunch critic of Yunus and the Grameen Bank he founded, and senior minister have repeatedly denied government influencing the case against the microcredit pioneer.

“Let me be clear about one thing – the government, from all its levels, has been saying they did not file the case. But you [journalists] know the fact. Why don’t you say something? Who has done this? The government or the workers?” he asked while speaking to reporters after appealing against the verdict on Sunday.

The Labour Appellate Tribunal also upheld bail to Yunus and the other convicts in the case, and fixed Mar 3 to review the case documents and the labour court's verdict.

The Dhaka Third Labour Court on Jan 1 handed down the verdict against Grameen Telecom Chairman Yunus, Managing Director Ashraful Hasan, and directors Nurjahan Begum and Md Shahjahan.

The tribunal found them guilty of failing to deliver appointment letters to 101 employees, not paying employees during public holidays, and not submitting the fixed dividends to the Labour Welfare Foundation.

But Yunus, the founding managing director of the Grameen Bank, and the other convicts did not have to start serving time in prison immediately, as the court granted them one month's bail on condition that they use the time to launch an appeal against the ruling.

Arifuzzaman, a labour inspector, accused the four individuals in the case filed on September 9, 2021, of failing to provide employees of Grameen Telecom with appointment letters, get work schedules approved by the authorities, and submit annual and half-yearly returns.

After asking journalists to point out who filed the case, Yunus said, “A government agency, the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, did it. Not the workers. The workers have no involvement in it.”

He was critical of the case for “targeting people who dreamed of changing the world by eliminating poverty through the Grameen Bank”.

He said Grameen Telecom Director Noorjahan was a pioneer in launching the Grameen Bank at Jobra village in Chattogram’s Hathazari.

Shahjahan has also been with the bank since its inception. Ashraful joined the bank after graduating from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

Abdullah Al Mamun, a lawyer for Yunus, also questioned the government claim that it has not influenced the case, rather it was started by workers.

“That’s not right. The government filed the case through its Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments with false information that the workers’ jobs were not regularised, and they were not given extended holidays and 5 percent of the profits,” he said.

“A government agency filed the case on government orders. The verdict in the case is completely illegal,” Mamun remarked.

But Khurshid Alam Khan, a lawyer for the government agency, said the Attorney General’s Office or the Public Prosecutor’s Office would have been assigned the case had it been a government case.

“I am a private lawyer. They [the department] engaged me privately in the High Court, in the tribunal and in this court [appellate tribunal].”