Global figures urge Bangladesh to stop harassing Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus

Ahammad Foyez
Global figures urge Bangladesh to stop harassing Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, walks during the One Planet Summit in Boulogne-Billancourt, west of Paris, Dec. 12, 2017.
[Ludovic Marin/AFP]

From Ban Ki-Moon to Bono, 40 global public figures have jointly urged Bangladesh to stop harassing Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, who is often openly vilified by the Sheikh Hasina government.

In an open letter, these global figures said they are worried about the 82-year-old Grameen Bank founder who is known worldwide for pioneering microcredit as a method of lifting millions out of poverty.

“We have deep concerns for Professor Yunus’ well-being and his ability to contribute to humanitarian advancement in Bangladesh and around the world,” the letter said about the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Yunus and some of his colleagues from Grameen Telecom, a company he founded, are being investigated by Bangladesh’s anti-graft agency for alleged involvement in laundering money to the tune of U.S. $300 million, and embezzling from the employees’ welfare fund.

Yunus is chairman of Grameen Telecom which owns a multi-billion dollar stake in Bangladesh's largest mobile phone operator

The notable figures’ open letter said Yunus has not benefited financially from his involvement in the company.

“Rather, he has devoted himself to the poverty-fighting missions of the many organizations he has established and lives modestly in Dhaka,” the letter said.

“It is therefore painful to see Prof. Yunus, a man of impeccable integrity, and his life’s work unfairly attacked and repeatedly harassed and investigated by your government.”

The signatories said they hoped Bangladesh would allow Yunus to focus his energy on doing humanitarian work “rather than on defending himself.”

Among those who signed the letter are former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, and former Ireland President Mary Robinson. 

The Bangladesh Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) investigation of Yunus began in July 2022, around the same time he issued a comprehensive rebuttal of years of criticism by the government.

He said, among other things, that he had no involvement in the World Bank’s cancellation of financing 11 years ago for the ambitious Padma Bridge project.

Hasina’s Awami League has believed that Yunus pressured the World Bank to block funding for the project because he was furious at being dismissed as head of Grameen Bank in 2011.

Her government has not hidden its hostility toward Yunus.

Hasan Mahmud, the information and broadcasting minister, used colorful language to rebut Yunus’ statement, saying it was an effort “to cover fish with vegetables.”

Critics targeted

Meanwhile, opponents have noted that the administration has increasingly and brazenly targeted Hasina’s critics and journalists, using state machinery and oppressive laws. The issue has come to the attention of other democracies and rights groups as well.

BenarNews reached out to Abdullah-Al-Mamun, who represents Yunus in the ACC probe. He said the matter was under investigation, adding some issues were before the court, so the case was sub judice, meaning it would be illegal to discuss it.

“We will face legal ramifications [if we comment],” he told BenarNews.

Khurshid Alam Khan, who represents the ACC, had no such fears.

“World leaders may be influenced by Mr. Yunus as he has huge influence,” he told BenarNews. 

“We respect him as a Nobel Laureate, but the law is equal for all.”


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