Tribunal grants appeal hearing, bail to Yunus in labour law case

He and three other executives of Grameen Telecom filed an appeal to overturn their six-month jail terms in a labour law violations case

Published : 28 Jan 2024, 06:41 AM
Updated : 28 Jan 2024, 06:41 AM

The Labour Appellate Tribunal has agreed to hear an appeal by Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus and three other Grameen Telecom officials, challenging their convictions for labour law violations.

Judge MA Awal also upheld their bail during a hearing on Sunday and fixed Mar 3 to review the case documents and the labour court's judgment.

Yunus, along with Grameen Telecom's Managing Director Ashraful Hasan, and directors Nurjahan Begum and Md Shahjahan, were each sentenced to six months in jail and fined Tk 30,000.

Their lawyer, Abdullah Al Mamun, submitted 30 arguments in the application to overturn the verdict. The tribunal will decide on the start date of the appeal hearing after the documents are reviewed on Mar 3.

During the bail hearing, Mamun highlighted the age and health conditions of the convicts.

"All of them are over 75 years old, with Yunus being 84. Shahjahan is paralysed and unable to walk. An application seeking to waive the need for them to attend hearings in person was granted but they were still physically present for the hearings and the verdict," he said.

When Khurshid Alam Khan, representing the Directorate of Factories and Institutions, attempted to comment, Judge Awal inquired about the legal basis for speaking before the appeal's admittance.

After a brief exchange, the judge emphasised that legal arguments could be made after the appeal is admitted for hearing.

Subsequently, the judge heard Mamun's arguments in support of the appeal, upheld the convicts' bail, and ordered the trial court's records to be brought forth.

Yunus and the co-convicts appeared at the Labour Appeal Tribunal in Kakrail at 10:45 am for the hearing.

"The specific charges and crimes leading to the sentence were not detailed in the judgment. Despite this, we countered the broad allegations through cross-examination and addressed legal issues in the appeal," said Mamun.

Nobel Prize-winning microcredit pioneer Yunus and the others were accused 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.

On Jan 1, Judge Sheikh Marina Sultana of the Dhaka Third Labour Court 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.

Arifuzzaman, a labour inspector, accused the four individuals on September 9, 2021, in the Third Labor Court of Dhaka of not regularising 101 Grameen Telecom employees, failing to pay for public holidays, and not contributing specified dividends to the Workers' Welfare Foundation.

But Yunus, the founding Grameen Bank managing director, 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.

The complete 84-page verdict was released on Jan 11, prompting Yunus' legal team to begin the appeals process.

Yunus's conviction has drawn scrutiny both at home and abroad, with 12 US senators writing to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to express their concerns over the perceived 'judicial harassment' of the Nobel laureate.