Bangladesh Sentences Nobel Laureate to Six Months for Graft

Published: 04 January 2024

Muhammad Yunus BangladeshMuhammad Yunus (Photo: Paul Kagame, Flickr, License)

By Haroon Janjua

A court in Bangladesh sentenced on Monday Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus to six months in prison for corruption, labor law violations, and failure to create a welfare fund for his employees. Yunus has denied all charges.

The 83-year-old founder of Grameen Bank won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in lifting millions of people in the South Asian country out of poverty through small loans granted to the poorest individuals in rural areas.

Yunus founded his own political party called "Citizen Power" a few years after winning the Nobel Prize, promising to fight corruption.

This occurred during a time when two arch rivals in Bangladesh politics, Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League and Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), were engaged in conflict.

Hasina saw Yunus as another competitor and accused him of “sucking blood” from the poor.

Yunus currently faces over 100 other corruption and labor law violation charges. His supporters have denounced the ruling and the entire trial as politically motivated.

"As my lawyers have convincingly argued in court, this verdict against me is contrary to all legal precedent and logic," Yunus stated in a post-verdict statement on Monday. "I call on 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."

Amnesty International South Asia commented on the situation, stating that “the conviction of Yunus is emblematic of the beleaguered state of human rights in Bangladesh, where the authorities have eroded freedoms and bulldozed critics into submission.”

Human rights groups have accused Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government, as she seeks her fourth consecutive term, of targeting opposition leaders and their supporters. Hasina's main rival Zia was jailed for corruption in 2018 but was granted bail after a few months.

Zia has urged her supporters to boycott the upcoming elections. Hasina has repeatedly labeled Zia’s BNP party as troublemakers and accused her party of attempting to sabotage the vote on Sunday.